Update: The newly adopted McLean Community Center budget appears to include a $1 million subsidy for its operating program. On behalf of the neighbors, we asked Finance Community chair David Sanders about this last week.
Here is the complete verbatim answer we received from the MCC staff:
"The MCC was established as a special tax district supported by the citizens of the special tax district to build facilities and operate classes, programs and events. The role of MCC is to provide services to its taxpayers, and the majority of the expenses incurred by MCC to provide those services are funded by tax revenues.
"Given that our operating expenses exceed our revenues, we have set fees and charges for certain programs (such as instructional classes, theatre productions, and some special events) to help us operate on a more balanced budget.
"As you may be aware, to the extent that MCC charges fees for classes, theater tickets, etc., residents of our tax district pay lower fees for these classes and tickets than do non-residents.
"As you can see, the proposed budget for FY 2013 is projecting an annual operating deficit* of approximately $1 million, which will be funded from the existing general fund surplus."
Last year's adopted budget also included a deficit. But the MCC ended the year with a surplus because of increases tax revenues. Board members have talked about the unreliability of their budget numbers because they plan their budget a year in advance.
Here are the numbers and the questions that we asked about for the neighbors:
- The community center offers a variety of classes from cooking to yoga. Fees are charged for the classes. The budget says instructional programs will bring in $524,000 in revenue. But will cost $781,000. Does this mean that taxpayers are subsidizing the classes?
- The performing arts, primarily the Alden Theater, will bring in $172,000 in revenue, according to the proposed budget. But performing arts will cost more than $1 million. The Alden sells tickets to all performances. Does this mean that taxpayers are subsidizing the center's productions?
- If a subsidy is needed, why not use money in the surplus? The proposed budget calls for using new tax revenue. The budget calls for collecting $3.7 million in property tax revenue plus $60,000 in interest on investments. The bulk of the center's finances comes from taxpayers.