Growls too



Keywords: growls too
Description: A week ago, we growled about a $250,000 grant, which the Arlington County Board used to bailout Signature Theatre, citing a story in the Arlington Sun Gazette. Now, in a local editorial, the

A week ago, we growled about a $250,000 grant, which the Arlington County Board used to bailout Signature Theatre, citing a story in the Arlington Sun Gazette. Now, in a local editorial, the Washington Examiner excoriates the County Board for doing so. Here's how the Examiner concluded the editorial, including a few more financial details:

"After inappropriately meeting in a closed-door executive session to discuss the $250,000 grant without a report from Donnellan, the Signature bailout was approved in 29 seconds flat. There was literally not even a minute of public discussion over the propriety of paying the theater's $85,000 delinquent tax bill and its future tax obligations with "savings from last year's budget."

"Under a lease agreement with the county, the theater pays $90,000 in rent, which comes out to about 2.5 percent of its annual ticket sales. Managing director Maggie Boland insisted that "Signature is not in trouble," explaining that the theater has been "controlling expenses" by not paying its taxes. However, homeowners, business owners and other nonprofits in Arlington are strongly advised not to use that excuse next time their county tax bill comes due.

"Signature Theatre, which produces expensive, Broadway-type shows for which it won a regional Tony Award in 2009, moved into a new county-owned building in 2007 but still owes $7.8 million on a construction loan. The terms of its 35-year lease require the theater — not taxpayers — to cover the full costs of operating the facility, including paying all taxes due.

"Other tax scofflaws have their physical property and/or income seized to pay their delinquent taxes, as County Treasurer Frank O'Leary pointed out. Other financially struggling artistic venues have to scale back productions, sublease space or launch pledge drives when money gets tight. But Signature Theatre has friends in high places who apparently believe it's too fabulous to fail, county taxpayers be damned. (emphasis added)

The County Board and County Manager will look taxpayers straight in the eye, and say the money came from the 'closeout' of the prior fiscal year's annual accounting. However. as the Board or Manager will argue, when it suits their argument, all money is fungible. So the Board is catering to another special interest while county taxpayers pick-up the tab.






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