Tempe facing loss of Center for Arts funding in 2020
by Dianna M. Náñez - Mar. 23, 2012 07:10 AM
The Republic | azcentral.com
Tempe Center for the Arts is called the jewel of Town Lake, [aka Tempe Town Toilet] but the lingering downturn in the economy will soon deplete the arts-tax reserve, leaving the city to pay for the facility's operations for several years before the financial outlook improves.
While finances over the next few years are important, arts advocates and finance officials agree that a recent financial review shows the real problem Tempe faces: How will Tempe fund the arts center when the arts tax expires in 2020? [As usual the taxpayers will get stuck with the bill!!!]
An analysis of the finances of the arts center, which opened in 2007 and cost $76 million to build, indicates that starting in 2013-14 the fund balance generated from a one-tenth of 1 percent city sales tax to support the arts center will be depleted and the center will face a deficit in the fund balance of $506,000.
By 2017-18, the economy is expected to have improved enough that the city's arts sales tax, combined with a reduction in debt on the center's construction costs, will cover expenses. In 2017-18, the surplus in the fund balance will be about $1.1 million and will grow until the arts tax expires in 2020.
Ken Jones, Tempe's finance director, said the council has several options for managing the short-term deficit. One option is transferring money from the general fund and repaying that amount when the surplus begins to build in 2017-18.
Jones said the bigger dilemma facing the city is what Tempe will do when the arts tax expires in 2020. [Dilemma my *ss, as usual the taxpayers will get stuck with the bill!!!]
In fiscal year 2021-22, the revenue will fall about $2.5 million short, according to a long-range financial forecast.
Don Fassinger, general manager for the arts center, said the staff is reviewing whether programming changes may bring in more revenue. [Yea, sure! These things ALWAYS lose money even thought our royal government rulers ALWAYS predict they will make fistfuls of money!]
"Management is currently examining strategies to address the operation of the Tempe Center for the Arts related to event programming, a balance of performance offerings and non-performance events while addressing community needs," he wrote in an e-mail.
Some residents have long criticized the city for spending too much to build the arts center. Mayor Hugh Hallman said debt payments on greater-than-projected construction costs have depleted the center's fund years earlier than expected. [Well Mayor Hugh Hallman was the idiot who approved the construction cost estimates]
Considering the center opened just before the economy took a nosedive, Tempe's arts center is lucky to be doing as well as it is, arts advocates say. [That's like saying things are great because they are losing millions of dollars instead of losing billions of dollars]
Mel Kessler and Gail Fisher were part of the Tempe community group that advocated for a 2000 ballot measure that allowed voters to decide whether to pay the one-tenth of a percent sales tax to build an arts center. Fisher and Kessler are also members of the Friends of Tempe Center for the Arts non-profit that fundraises to support community programming.
They said the foundation has long discussed several options for increasing private funding to help support the center. When it was built, the community agreed that Tempe should woo private companies that would want naming rights for an impressive lakeside theater in the heart of the Valley. [Just who is this community that agreded on this??? Mel Kessler and Gail Fisher???] Naming rights would have created an endowment to help support the arts center, the couple said.
Fisher and Kessler said that Tempe officials told the Friends of Tempe Center for the Arts non-profit that they could raise limited private funds for the arts center but the bulk of private-sector fundraising as well as naming rights would be handled by the Rio Salado Foundation, a non-profit that raises money for projects surrounding Town Lake and Papago Park.
Fisher and Kessler believe the city should be actively seeking naming rights because Town Lake is such a high-profile setting that they imagine many benefactors would jump at the chance to have their name on the building.
Hallman, president of the Rio Salado Foundation's board of directors, said he drafted a proposal for naming rights but that the economy soured after the center opened in 2007 and there was not a market for such opportunities. [What BS, there will never be a market for such opportunities!!!] However, he agrees that with the economy rebounding, now is the time to restart a naming-rights campaign.
As far as Rio Salado's support of the arts center, Hallman said the foundation donated $300,000 for a Tempe Center for the Arts grand-opening celebration, which drew more than 15,000 residents, so taxpayers would not have to foot the bill. An additional $160,000 went to launch the Friends of Tempe Center for the Arts, which to date has raised about $250,000 to help pay for programming and which has contributed thousands of volunteer hours.
Joanie Flatt, who is on the board of Childsplay, the center's resident theater group, and who helped with tax campaigns to support the building of the Mesa Arts Center and Tempe Center for the Arts, said arts centers are not revenue-generators. [Duh!!! As I said before this monster ain't NEVER going to make money!!! It's just going to suck the taxpayers dry!!!] That is why voters must decide whether they are willing to support a tax for such facilities.
"Like libraries and parks ... it's a quality-of-life choice," she said. "The Tempe center is doing exactly what it was built to do -- provide quality community theater and programming." [And provide government welfare to people and businesses in the arts field]
Flatt explained that because the Tempe center's largest auditorium seats about 600 it is not able to draw moneymaking acts like Mesa can in an auditorium that seats about 1,600. [Well then why did the idiots build it????]
"The way a theater is designed and the size of the audience chamber pretty much dictates what product they can put on," she said.
Flatt said the Mesa Arts Center was supported by a tax to fund construction costs and that tax expired once those costs were paid. Voters also approved a separate tax that exists in perpetuity to fund the center's operations.
Flatt recommends Tempe complement an existing survey on what kind of programming residents would like at their arts center with an analysis by a booking agency that would review the center's programming to see what kind of acts Tempe can add to boost funding.
Ultimately, Flatt said it's good that years before the tax expires Tempe is starting a conversation about whether voters want to continue to support the investment in constructing the arts center. [Duh!!! As I said before this is going to suck every dollar from the tax payers wallets!!!!]
Tempe Center for the Arts
Tempe Cesspool for the Arts