LARGO – Largo’s Cultural Center, situated right across the street from the brand new Largo Public Library, drains more than $10,600 every week from Largo taxpayers.
At more than $1,500 a day, that amount of money is more than most Largo Social Security recipients are getting on a monthly basis.
The more one examines figures relating to the Cultural Center the more questions are raised.
With Largo experiencing a $1.6 million shortfall in anticipated revenues because the City Commission decided to actually cut taxes and impose the roll back millage rate, the $10,600 a week looms very large.
Fiscal Year 2005 budget that ended last Friday listed $579,100 as revenue, including ticket sales, rentals and concession sales.
A donation from Partners N Progress brought in $70,000.
This almost $650,000 did not cut the mustard.
The city had to come up with $554,500 to balance the books.
All of this adds up to $1,203,600 for the year, or $23,146 a week allotted to the Cultural Center.
When the center was in the planning stages, the idea was to have a forum for citizens to enjoy drama, performances, entertainment at the level of tickets costing $10 to $12, a modest sum targeted at the bulk of the Largo citizenry.
Using the city’s figure of 112,000 who attended events at the Cultural Center in 2004 and multiplying this by the lower of the two ticket figures would bring in $1,120,000 in ticket sales alone.
With less than half of that realized from all income, one wonders why there is no reconciliation in those figures. Tickets to events at the Cultural Center usually cost far more than $10 or $12.
The center has some 330 seats for entertainment, drama, etc. At the originally posited idea of popular prices, using the higher of the two ($12), that would bring in less than $4,000 with a full house.
Anyone who knows anything about entertainment promotion will tell you that you don’t get much for $4,000. Thus, that formula rules out, inexorably, any chance of getting top marquee entertainment without tremendous loss.
That was demonstrated back in April when a music event was held outdoors behind the new library. That went into the red by more than $50,000 – and, amazingly, another such event is planned in the spring. The price of this kind of education obviously comes very high in Largo.
Look at the 112,000 attendee figure another way. Divide it into the revenue ($579,100) and you get a figure of $5.17. That is, 112,000 people spent an average of $5.17 for admission, concessions, etc.? It doesn’t figure.
The center should not be used for lots of free events. The whole of Central Park is right outside the door available for that.
On top of that, only about half of the space available in the center is used for theatrical type events. The other half is taken up with a large space in which the New York Knicks could work out.
What were the planners thinking? Prices at $12 with 330 seats using only half the available space doesn’t make sense.
Looking at the expenses for the center raises more questions - More than $1,400 a week for utilities, almost $900 a week for maintenance and repair (a high priced janitor?), another $850 a week for royalties (?), licenses (from the city?), merchant fees (?) and postage.
Most troubling of all is that no official in Largo – elected or hired - seems to be disturbed by this $10,000 a week drain.
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