Extra money for Carmel arts groups on hold

August 8, 2012

Carmel Mayor James Brainard's request for an additional $1.36 million in arts funding is lingering in a city council committee.

Most of the money, $840,000, would go to the Center for the Performing Arts to help it pay bills through December.

The extra spending remains before the council's finance committee, and committee chairwoman Luci Snyder said the request won't be approved until the performing arts center signs a contract for its use of space in the James Building, which sits across the lawn from the Palladium concert hall.

The James Building, which is controlled by the Carmel Redevelopment Commission, houses offices and the performing arts center's theater spaces. The lack of a formal lease is an issue that’s been flagged by the State Board of Accounts.

In the meantime, Snyder said the council is reviewing the financial condition of the 14 other cultural groups that would receive grants through Brainard’s request. The council could dole the money out of its general fund or incorporate the spending into a $195 million refinancing package on redevelopment commission debt, she said.

Frank Basile, interim CEO of the performing arts center, said the delay is not affecting his ability to pay bills.

"We have sufficient funds for the time being to carry us through, so we’re not in any kind of financial problem," Basile said Wednesday morning.

Brainard put forward the request in June. The performing arts center, which received a $5.5 million subsidy last fall, needs more money to cover a revenue gap in the first half of its fiscal year, which began July 1. (The city's fiscal year begins Jan. 1). Brainard thinks the city can afford the additional spending because the city is due to receive $6.5 million more in tax revenue this year due to a state accounting error.

The council will spend $265,000 on grants to the Carmel Repertory Theatre and Carmel Symphony Orchestra, two local resident companies of the performing arts center, Snyder said. Those grants were already included in the city’s 2012 budget.

Brainard’s special spending request also includes $190,000 for the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre, another resident company, and grants ranging from $2,500 to $55,000 for other performing arts groups that use the center.

Other types of cultural arts groups would receive a share. The Carmel Clay Historical Society and Museum of Miniature Houses each would receive $10,000. The Carmel International Arts Festival would get $25,000.

The Carmel Redevelopment Commission and the performing arts center, which is run by a private, not-for-profit foundation, have never had a lease or contract for the James Building. Basile, who is also on the foundation's board of directors, said lawyers for the two sides are working out an agreement that will clarify who is responsible for utilities and other expenses. The performing arts center pays no rent to the CRC, and that will continue to be the case under the contract, he said.

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