It could have been
lights out permanently for Porter County’s historic Memorial Opera House,
but the County Council voted 6-1 on Tuesday to keep the venue in the black
by bolstering its cash flow with $50,000 of unallocated county income tax
Jeremy Rivas, D-2nd, was the one dissenting vote, arguing that the County
has other obligations such as fixing the drainage problems in Portage Twp.
about priorities,” he said.
administrators found themselves in a tricky situation starting this year
with its operating expenses in the hole while its directors were attempting
to embark on a new marketing effort aimed at self-sufficient revenues.
Trinidad Snider and County Commissioner Laura Blaney, D-South, said the
$50,000 is vital to “keep the cash flow where it needs to be” for this year
and into 2016.
“Is this something
you can make up?” asked Councilman Jim Biggs, R-1st.
“That’s the plan.
The plan is we don’t want to be back here next January,” said Blaney.
Snider, who Blaney
said is skilled in both business and theater, told the Council that the
Opera House will be more visible in the community, promoting events and
shows with the help of its 15 member foundation board. They will utilize
volunteers instead of paid employees to operate as a business, she said.
There are four
well-known musicals on the schedule this year followed by “A Christmas
Carol” in December, which Snider anticipates will see healthy ticket sales.
Auditor Vicki Urbanik said the State Board of Accounts has urged that the
Opera House not continue operating in the red with a depleted cash flow,
adding that it also goes against the County’s policies.
Rivas asked Urbanik
how much the County had in unallocated CEDIT. Urbanik said she anticipates
those funds to be at $2 million to $2.5 million this year.
such as Jim Biggs, R-1st, asked what will happen if the $50,000 were not
granted. Council attorney Scott McClure said “we’ll have to close the opera
The money, among
other things, will allow the facility to build the sets for its next
production of Les Miserables, which starts its four week run in February,
Biggs said he
understands the importance of closing the gap, but told Snider she needs to
“understand the gravity of the situation” in that “the spigot is turned off
In September, the
County povided $20,000 in CEDIT towards other funding shortfalls.
The Opera House
budget is not included in the County’s levy-driven General Fund. It operates
on self-generated revenue while the Commissioners have frequently put CEDIT
dollars toward building repairs.
In other business,
the Council heard a presentation from representatives of the
Indianapolis-based Apex Benefits Group, the same firm that approached the
Council last fall claiming it could save the County nearly $3 million in
insurance costs with a Cost-Plus method.
President Dan Whitten, D-at large, said he would favor the proposal with the
savings projected. The County’s insurance policies, however, are decided
ultimately by the County Commissioners, who will discuss the Cost-Plus
options at their Feb. 18 meeting.
Matt McCuen of
Group & Pension Administrators said adopting the Cost-Plus approach would
mean the County would need to change its current insurance administrator.
Biggs, who has been
spearheading insurance discussions on the Council’s behalf said “time is of
the essence” if the County wishes to come close to making its targeted goal
of keeping costs under $9 million for 2015.
Also on Tuesday,
the Council appointed Rivas to keep communication open between the County
and the City of Portage about possible ways the County could lend money to
from Portage said they are in need of funds to renovate their fire station
and make it compliant with ADA requirements.