Somehow we missed the earlier announcement from 2 weeks ago, but it looks like Chesterfield voters are getting what they wanted…a performing arts center that is funded on the county’s credit card. But it’s only $6.9 million more in debt! This is good news….with the bond referendum (debt to fund the center) getting approved, and with the approval of the multi-million dollar bike paths plan (yet to be funded), I’m certain we’ll not be hearing any more nonsense about how we need a new meals tax to fund critical infrastructure…correct?
Just to level set expectations and what this means…Chesterfield tax payers are taking on debt to construct a new building that will then be offered for rent to a non-profit organization (under a lease agreement). Seems like a great deal…a private entity using the taxpayers as a bank to fund its project. While the center will still be owned by the county, the arts center non-profit organization will enjoy a long-term lease agreement and will manage center operations (after funding it, Chesterfield residents likely won’t have a voice in how the center is operated). We need to dig into the details as to who is “on the hook” if the center becomes unprofitable…we’ve already seen how these public/private partnerships can fail spectacularly (see: the SportsQuest debacle).
Now, we like the arts as much as anyone else, but greatly prefer that these types of projects be funded privately, and that we make sure that every single penny of critical infrastructure spending is sourced prior to engaging in “niceties”. Here’s to hoping that the taxpayers enjoy a return (cultural or financial) on their investment!
From the Richmond Times-Dispatch:
The Chesterfield County Board of Supervisors on Wednesday gave final approval to funding for the Chesterfield Center for the Arts, a $8.1 million, 350-seat theater planned to open in Chester in 2017.