Saratoga Performing Arts Center Says Finances Are Worse Than Acknowledged

Classic Arts News   Saratoga Performing Arts Center Says Finances Are Worse Than Acknowledged
Aat the Saratoga Performing Arts Center's annual meeting yesterday, officials said the venue was in serious financial trouble last year and remains in a precarious position, the Saratogian reports.

Abraham Lackman, an economist and a newly installed board member, said, "SPAC was headed for fiscal shipwreck. In my opinion, SPAC would have been totally bankrupt within 12 months."

According to Lackman, an internal audit revealed the extent of the upstate New York venue's troubles, but it was "misrepresented" at the annual meeting in May 2004. He suggested that the problems were what prompted former president Hebert Chesbrough to cancel the New York City Ballet's annual residencies at the center.

"I think that's why Herb started to panic and decided to eliminate the ballet," he said. "Herb realized SPAC's finances were hemorrhaging."

That decision, later reversed, prompted a state audit of the center and eventually led to Chesbrough's departure and the resignation of the entire board.

At the meeting, SPAC also announced that it had received $2 million in donations—of which $1.5 million is earmarked for the ballet—from new board chair William P. Dake, honorary chairwoman Marylou Whitney, and others. Whitney, a founder of the center, resigned several years ago in protest of what she saw as mismanagment, but agreed to return earlier this month because of the center's change in leadership.

SPAC currently has an endowment of $6.9 million, but a debt of $3.5 million. Lackman said that the center needed to raise the endowment to $10 million, pay off the debt, and raise $600,000 for operating expenses in order to stabilize its finances.

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