Published Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012 | 2 a.m.
Updated Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2012 | 9:28 a.m.
A month ago, local theater groups said the Las Vegas-Clark County Library District had almost priced them out of business because they had increased theater rent by more than 1,000 percent.
Where rent for library theaters had been $10 per hour for nonprofit Signature Productions, the district increased the rent to $170 per hour.
Broadway Bound, which puts on detailed children’s productions, said the new fees meant a show that previously cost $3,700 would now cost $27,000.
But much can change in a month.
In that time, a county commissioner and a local doctor intervened. A fiscal consultant crunched the numbers pro bono. Now a new “revised fee structure” is circulating and will be considered at the Library District’s board meeting Sept. 13, said Pat Marvel, a spokeswoman for the district.
The new theater rental rate being considered would drop from $170 per hour to $40 per hour, said Karl Larsen, Signature Productions president. Fees for technicians, who run sound and light equipment, had increased from $12 to $40. Larsen said the new technician rate would remain around roughly $40.
Larsen said Signature’s board would consider the new rates if they were approved by the Library District board. He added that Signature “can live with that figure” but maintained a philosophical belief that it’s wrong to charge a nonprofit group full freight, especially when the libraries were built with taxpayer dollars.
He said the new rate demonstrated the Library District’s first fee analysis of how much it had to increase rates to break even “was wrong.”
“These new figures represent an amount that is exactly what it costs them,” he said, adding that “every other library theater in the country has (lower) rates for nonprofits.”
Marci Riedy, a self-proclaimed “theater mom” who volunteers with Broadway Bound, originally brought the new fee structure to the attention of county commissioners in July.
At the time, Riedy gave the example of how a production that previously cost $3,700 to produce would increase to $27,000. Under the revised fee structure, she said Tuesday, the same show would cost around $12,500.
To make up for the increase, she said the price of a ticket may need to increase about 30 percent, from an average of about $11.50 to $15.
“We know parents will pay it; we hope the general public will, too,” she said.
When Riedy addressed commissioners in July, she did so more than a year after the April 2011 decision by the Library District board to increase rental fees. The district honored existing contracts, however, so rates didn’t go into effect and weren’t felt until earlier this year.
No elected official sits on the Library District board; its members are appointed by elected officials from Las Vegas and Clark County.
So Clark County commissioners appeared stunned when Riedy and some preteens addressed commissioners about the higher fees. When Riedy got choked up, one of the young women took over and finished the presentation for her.
After the meeting, Commissioner Steve Sisolak said he met with Jeanne Goodrich, Library District executive director. The “difficult meeting,” as Sisolak characterized it, left him unsatisfied. So he said he sent letters to the district’s board members pleading with them to reconsider the rental fees.
Before Riedy had even brought the issue to the commission, Dr. Keith Boman, vice chairman of the Smith Center for the Performing Arts, had asked Guy Hobbs, a financial analyst, to look at the district’s numbers. Boman, a longtime supporter of local performing arts, said he had been dismayed by the rate hikes.
“It’s taking one part of the circle out of what makes us an active, growing community,” he said. “It’s a crying shame after all these years to end up in this kind of a bureaucratic nightmare.”
A local physician, Boman said political pressure may have persuaded the Library District to pay more attention to Hobbs’ analysis. Regardless of how it happened, however, he called the tentative agreement “a huge step in working together between the performing arts community and the Library District.”
Sisolak said it demonstrated the importance of local theater to the community and the impact that can result from residents speaking out.
“People coming and voicing their concerns can make a big difference,” he said. “I’m glad they did it, not only for themselves and their kids, but for everyone who wants to use the libraries.”
CORRECTION: This version corrects the proposed hourly rental fee. | (August 15, 2012)