Prince George City Council has deferred a request from Miracle Theatre to further subsidize the cost of renting the Prince George Playhouse for its upcoming production of On Golden Pond.
Mindy Stroet from the Prince George Community Foundation (PGCF), Donna Flood from the Prince George Hospice Palliative Care Society, (PGHPCS) and Ted Price director of Miracle Theatre presented at the Monday Dec. 6 council meeting requesting $7,000 towards the cost of renting the venue.
However, Council was unwilling to commit to the funding request without further information.
“We are here tonight with an unprecedented request from council due to the COVID-19 pandemic and provincial health authority restrictions,” said Storet, who explained that because of pandemic restrictions the Miracle Theatre can’t hold its production in Art Space above Books & Company, which is typically donated for each production.
For the past three years, the Prince George Community Foundation (PGCF) has been the beneficiary of Miracle Theatre’s productions and donates the funds raised from the performances back into the community.
PGCF uses the money raised to create endowment funds and then redistributes the earnings from those funds through grants to local charities.
As a result of the two previous productions Miracle Theatre established the Children of Prince George endowment fund where $84,036 and $106,265 were donated respecitively.
“Last week from these funds $23,000 was granted back into the community to support children’s causes and needs,” said Stroet.
“This year Miracle Theatre has chosen Hospice a tremendous organization in Prince George and something that I think we can all say that we have been touched by.”
Stroet explained the group is asking council to help with the costs associated with renting the Playhouse as it is the only venue sufficient for the production.
“I am happy to say tonight that the PGCF and the PGHPCS will both be putting in $5,000 to this cost bringing our request to you tonight to cover the remaining $7,043.55,” said Stroet.
Flood also noted that being the recipient of this new endowment fund would help create sustainability which is important for an organization that is so heavily reliant on donations.
“There’s always a pivot with donors and donations so we are really looking forward to be able to have an endowment that will provide some sustainable funding for us.”
Price noted that Miracle Theatre had investigated many venue options, but they all presented hurdles in adaptability and availability.
He said the quote to use the Playhouse for the booking time needed is $17,000 and the organization has already increased ticket prices modestly. City staff also noted that the $17,000 quote is calculated at the already subsidized rates for non-profits.
“When we received the Playhouse quote we thought about increasing ticket prices once again but a modest ticket price is such an important part of our success. It is important that our productions are inclusive and accessible to people of ordinary and even modest means,” said Price.
“People need to be together now even if it must be in constrained ways. We have been in such a drought of things communal and such a drought of things our community does together and this drought isn’t over yet but our town needs things to celebrate.”
Council determined the requested $7,000 in funding needed would have to come from the council contingency, which is a $75,000 fund that has a remaining balance of $35,000.
It was used once in May for a $40,000 commitment and will be replenished with a new $75,000 in January 2022, with any leftover money returning to general operating surplus.
However, council was not willing to commit to the funding request immediately and postponed the request until the Dec. 20 meeting after approving a motion requesting a report back from council with more information.
Coun. Kyle Sampson and Cori Ramsay noted they were struggling with the decision as council has said no to a number of funding requests from arts groups in the past.
“The only thing I am struggling with is that we have a ton of different arts groups that are struggling equally and want to do good work in our community,” said Ramsay.
“It is tough because if we do subsidize this than any other user group that wants to use the Playhouse will ask for subsidization as well.”
Coun. Frank Everitt and Coun. Susan Scott noted they were willing to commit to the $7,000 ask immediately.
“I don’t think it is out of the question, we have the money in our contingency,” said Everitt.
“We should move forward so things can move quickly and we can sell out and maybe they can add another date. This goes back into our community. It’s not an individual enterprise. It is for a charity.”
However, the motion to postpone the decision until Dec. 20 was passed with 5-2 vote so the matter will return to the council agenda with a report from staff later this month.