EL PASO, Texas - The group pledging to raise $20 million dollars to help fund the creation of a Mexican American Cultural Center in downtown El Paso is operating in the red. The discovery came to light at a meeting Monday afternoon for the Bond Overview Advisory Committee.
In January 2016, the non-profit group, Mexican American Cultural Institute, pledged to raise the millions, but the group has only raised about $15,000 so far according to city staff.
In 2012, voters approved about $6 million in Quality of Life bond money to build the center. But the city learned that amount would not be enough. So the plan is to retrofit the Abraham Chavez theater in downtown El Paso to house the center. That price tag is now about $35 million.
According to documentation provided to city the Mexican American Cultural Institute's deficit has increased by 35 percent over the last two fiscal years.
In 2016, the group's deficit was reportedly $27,472 and in 2017 it was $37,105.
"The most recent actuals that were submitted to us stated that there was $130 in cash that they had on hand at the time. And then we were advised by email without backup that currently as of May 19, 2017 that they have cash on hand of $3,250.30," said Tracey Jerome the director of Museums and Cultural affairs.
Mayor Oscar Leeser and the council pledged an additional $10 million for the center that was supposed to come from savings. But Ben Fyffe, the assistant director of Museums and Cultural affairs said it's not clear where the money will come from.
"There was an additional $10 million that was pledged. But, at this point, where that $10 million would come from has not necessarily been identified by the city," said Fyffe.
Once the center is built experts predict the city's financial role will be far from over.
"At this point there have been two studies by two different consultants on this project. Both of them came back with an operational outlook that would include a 50 percent subsidy by the city to make the center work," said Fyffe.
City staff said there is no deadline for construction of the center. The city has hired a consultant to help the group with fundraising.