Partners N Progress Play Support Role in Cultural Center
By Leo Coughlin
LARGO - According to its newsletter dated Fall 2010, Partners N Progress raised a minimum of $81,920 from July 1, 2009 to July 31, 2010 from donors.
A couple of weeks ago the group, the purpose of which is to support the Cultural Center, presented the city with a $20,000 donation for the center, which is a glaring losing proposition for Largo taxpayers.
The total amount of money raised by PNP for the benefit of the Cultural Center is unknown. A fund raising liquor, hors d'oeuvres and dinner party ($100 a person) was held September 25.
While the organization has not released figures giving a total of donations, the minimum figure of $81,920 was derived from the list of donors in the 13 months in the various categories.
Different levels of giving are listed, each with a minimum donation, ranging from $5,000 down to $35. Multiplying the number of donors in each category by that category's minimum produces the minimum total figure given here.
In that same period of time, Largo taxpayers shelled out about a half a million dollars to subsidize the Cultural Center.
An obvious question, given the well more than $81,920 donated plus what comes in from various fund raising activities, including being a beneficiary from wills, is what happens to the money. The $20,000 donated to the city recently is just a fraction of what has been raised.
Partners N Progress has history going back to 1983, 13 years before the Cultural Center itself came into fruition.
A donation of $600,000 back in the beginning was made, according to Commissioner Mary Black, with the stipulation that the Cultural Center be a site for community theater.
Community theaters cost very little to maintain. And, of course, the center has always been available for other kinds of social gatherings.
However, for some reason persons unknown decided to bring in theatrical shows that are costly and go beyond the ability of the Largo pocketbook to pay for.
Given limited seating, measured against the cost of bringing in a show, make it impossible for a promoter to meet the expenses. A ticket price to enable a break-even would be out of range for modest Largo wallets.
Partners N Progress is a non-profit group dedicated to the support of the Cultural Center. It has close ties with the city; in fact, it could be considered an arm of Largo. Joan Byrne, the director of Parks, Recreation and Arts, sits on the board of PNP.
While the intentions and good work of Partners N Progress has been fully recognized, the Cultural Center is currently the focus of many questions. In the minds of many, it costs just too much extra money (about $500,000 a year) to maintain.
On top of that, questions have been raised about how sales are handled at the soda, beer, wine and liquor bar that is open during performances.
There have been substantiated reports that the cash register drawer is not closed after every transactions which leads, obviously, to significant questions - how is a record kept of sales? How much money is truly brought in? Without a clear record, how are taxes to the state accurately paid?
At this juncture, unconfirmed reports from Tallahassee indicate that the State Department of Revenue is going to be looking into the situation.
If everything is not up to snuff, that could spell big trouble for Largo and for those responsible for the running of the Cultural Center.
Running the center is not under Partners N Progress's jurisdiction and the word is that many in that group are breathing easy because of that.
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