In a headline published by the local newspaper two days ago, the writer, Renee Unsworth, proclaimed “Picasso exhibit, a financial success, extended into August” — which Picasso exhibit is she talking about? Although the city commission extended the exhibit until August 11, the losses to city taxpayers are $151,331 to date.
450th Commemoration Director Dana Ste. Claire has thrown a lot of “feel good” numbers around, some of which have been repeated, apparently unverified, by the St Augustine Record — perhaps in an attempt to soften the blow of the King’s ransom actually being thrown into the money pit “In the name of the 450th”.
We decided it was time to call the bluff. Historic City News requested an accounting of the income and expenses for the Picasso exhibit so that our readers could know the truth about “financial success” being hawked by the newspaper.
In the Unsworth article, she writes, “So far, the exhibit has brought in $130,000 of revenue, which includes ticket sales and retail sales (Picasso-themed souvenirs)”, ostensibly quoting Ste. Claire.
According to City Comptroller Mark Litzinger who responded to our request today, as of April 10, the Picasso exhibit has only brought in $70,548 in admissions and $26,420 in retail sales — a total revenue of $96,968, not $130,000.
The “relatively nominal price” quote, attributed to Ste. Claire, for three more month’s rent on the exhibit, is $30,000. I guess $10,000 a month is “nominal” so long as you are talking about other people’s money.
So, how has the City’s 450th Department spent the $96,968 that was deposited into the bank? Well, first of all, they overspent it — a total of $248,299 has been spent. Of course, that does NOT include the separate costs to refurbish the Visitor Information Center to meet the standards required for the exhibit to be shown in the first place.
But, it DOES include things like salaries, wages and employee benefits, consulting services, supplies and materials, overnight security and gift shop staffing, exhibition design, promotional activities, exhibit rental, events and programs. The cost of those $26,420 worth of trinkets, sold in the gift shop since March, was only $11,866.
“We are beyond where we wanted to be,” The Record also quoted Ste. Claire as saying. “It is nice to recover the costs.”
We say, when you are $151,331 in the hole after $96,968 in total revenue, you are a long way from recovering the costs.
|City of St. Augustine|
|FY 2013 Actual and Projections|
|Total Operating Revenues||96,968|
|Salaries, Wages and Employee Benefits||3,734|
|Consulting Services (Curatorial & Events Mgmt)||45,600|
|Supplies and Materials||2,863|
|Overnight Security and Gift Shop Staffing||30,408|
|Cost of Goods Sold (Gift Shop)||11,866|
|Events and Programs||19,578|
|Total Operating Expenses||248,299|
|Operating Income (Loss)||-151,331|