Millions in perpetual support await Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts
By Risa Polansky
The Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts won't be needing county handouts now — or potentially ever, the county's budget chief says. Millions in convention development taxes are to flow to the center annually.
As recently as last week, center officials thought they'd have to ask commissioners for $543,000 for capital improvements. They forecast similar requests annually.
But a 2007 mega-deal between Miami-Dade and the City of Miami supports the center virtually for life, said Jennifer Glazer-Moon, director of the county's Office of Strategic Business Management.
When the county and city agreed that Miami's Omni Community Redevelopment Agency would in part take over center construction debt payments from the county, it freed convention development taxes the county had been using to pay the debt.
Media have long reported that those newly available tourist taxes would fund a stadium for the Florida Marlins. County officials say that's a misconception.
"It never was" tied to baseball, Ms. Glazer-Moon said. "It was always dollar for dollar going to stay with the PAC."
The mega-deal itself says "the city and county acknowledge that these funds are necessary to provide for the city and county contributions to the Baseball Project."
Still, spokesman Victoria Mallette on behalf of Manager George Burgess, said via e-mail that language has been misinterpreted, and "the PAC funds stay at the PAC."
Center officials didn't realize they'd be getting about $8.7 million — last and this year's payments — this year on top of the about $7.6 million the county provides the center annually.
"They have plenty of money not only to fund the $543,000 they were asking for but to start funding an ongoing capital maintenance fund," Ms. Glazer-Moon said.
In a brief interview Monday, center CFO John Burnett said officials "just didn't know when we were going to get it [the county money]" and didn't want to include it in the budget prematurely.
"Now that we've gotten some clarification from the county, we've included that," he said. He ended the phone call, promising to continue the interview but didn't return calls, nor did CEO M. John Richard.
Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Richard issued a statement through an outside public relations firm calling it "premature" to comment.
Legislation that would let the money be passed from the county to the center could come to commissioners next month, Ms. Glazer-Moon said. She called it a "technicality."
A resource allocation report, which now includes the expected influx, shows the center putting about $1.8 million toward capital maintenance and a capital reserve, $5 million toward an endowment and $664,695 toward education/outreach, leaving an operating surplus of more than $1.2 million.
In 2010 projections, the expected $5.4 million convention tax payment is allocated similarly.
Payments to the county from the Omni redevelopment agency are to end no later than 2030. However, in investing the funds in a capital reserve and endowment, the center should be set well beyond then, Ms. Glazer-Moon said. "The point of what the city and the county did was to provide support virtually forever through this [global] agreement."