City Council awards contract to arts center

City Council last month awarded a contract of up to $80,000 for the Union County Performing Arts Center to provide “technical and programming assistance on an as-needed basis for certain arts-based events offered by the city.”

Resolution AR-71-15 was approved by the governing body at its March 9 regular meeting.

Programs like Cherry Street Alive, the summer concert and movies series, Halloween’s Trunk or Treat, among others, are the types that the arts center will handle, City Administrator Cherron Rountree said. “It is important to note that this is not a set amount but rather a not to exceed amount,” she said, adding that the arts center will invoice the city for its work and only will be paid for services provided.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“The city has always worked closely with the arts center on various programs in various capacities, each year we work with them and have always compensated them for their work,” Rountree said in an email, noting that it’s not a contribution but a contract. It’s unclear how different a role the Rahway Arts District would play in these events. The RAD typically has a $130,000 budget, with revenue generated by the downtown Special Improvement District (SID), which is expanding citywide this year.

As I recall, UCPAC used to received annual contributions from the city, county and/or Merck, which have waned in recent years. A review of resolutions approved by City Council during 2014, didn’t reveal any similar contract awarded to the arts center last year. There also was no sign of revenue from a city contract in the UCPAC’s tax forms, but the most recent available is for the fiscal year ending in June 2013.

According to itOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAs most recent tax forms, for the year ending 2013, the arts center had total revenue of $1.101 million but expenses of $1.193 million (a deficit of $91,489). That’s down from revenue of $1.575 million in 2012 and $1.349 million in 2011.

For a closer look at some of the revenue and expense items from the past four years of tax forms (2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014), here’s a spreadsheet (since UPDATED to include the latest tax return, 2014). Ticket sales and theatre rental — which made up two-thirds of revenue last year — have been up each of the past three years but the drop in revenue can be attributed to a couple of things:

In 2012, MusicFest was canceled “due to budget constraints,” according to Union County. Oh, and also, the Union County Prosecutor’s Office “discovered a slew of accounting mishaps” associated with the festival. It looks like they’ll try again this year, with the Union County Food Truck and Rock Carnival scheduled for September at Oak Ridge Park.

Mayor Samson Steinman served as executive director of the arts center for a couple of years when he was a councilman, before stepping down after he was appointed to succeed former Mayor Rick Proctor. Lawrence McCullough, also an associate in former Mayor James Kennedy’s Skye Consulting firm, was appointed executive director in November 2013. He previously was event coordinator and grants officer for Woodbridge.

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