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Sunday, August 21, 2011

CRVA Losses Not the Same as Other Losses?

So, here is the question citynewswatch still has:
Has the CRVA (Charlotte Regional Visitors Association) been reporting losses to Charlotte Taxpayers in a way that makes sense to the average Taxpayer?

Here is some information to help you decide:
Profit & Loss Statements were requested July 27th of Molly Hedrick (Communications Director for the CRVA), then repeatedly after that.  She refused to fill the request, even though the City of Charlotte designated her to give public records information.  Also, even when the writer tried to redirect back to City of Charlotte employees, Ms. Hendrick wrote to say she should be the one to be contacted.  However, nearly innumerable emails later, she still would not fill the request.  
This led to another request to the CRVA Board Members explaining the frustrating refusal of public information release, particularly in light of their newly-avowed transparency.
That letter received a response--not from a helpful, open Board Member, but from an attorney representing them and who stated he didn’t know what a P & L statement was. 

Meanwhile, citynewsatch obtained the Profit & Loss statements for all CRVA venues.  There's a link for you to view them below.  The quest to view this information is documented  in weeks of exhaustive, time-consuming, delaying requests which first put off the release of P&L sheets past the monthly CRVA Meeting with the Press this past Wednesday, and then claimed inability to answer a couple of straightforward questions about accounting terms.  Finally, at close of business on Friday August 20th, a partial answer arrived, but had skimmed over some important points.   In general terms, both the City and the CRVA completely deflected the number one question at the top concerning the real losses and what’s being reported about the amounts and sources of funding.  It seems extraordinary efforts are being made to delay and frustrate any release of information.  Direct questions are rebuffed.

Also, neither the City of Charlotte nor CRVA representatives will give an answer to the following question, which was asked of each entity separately:
“What is the amount and status of the loan to the City for the NASCAR Hall of Fame?” 
with the exception that Attorney Furr, representing the CRVA said this:
“The CRVA does not have a loan with the City for the NASCAR Hall of Fame. The City built the NASCAR Hall of Fame and hence is responsible for the financing plan.  The CRVA operates the NASCAR Hall of Fame under the provisions of the Charter, as amended by the General Assembly.

Is there a way for the City of Charlotte and the CRVA to stop paying attorneys and other employees to avoid answering questions about how they are spending our money?  Could someone please take responsibility to provide straight-forward answers about what is happening downtown? 

"Operating Losses"   "Claims ... lost"
Back to the big question:  Has the CRVA (Charlotte Regional Visitors Association) been reporting their losses to Charlotte Taxpayers in a way that makes sense to the average Taxpayer?  And are numbers accurate?  Reports from local media outlets stemming from the monthly CRVA meeting this past Wednesday were worded in this way:   Eric Spanberg of the Charlotte Business Journal said the CRVA reported thatThe hall of fame finished its first full year with an operating deficit of $1.4 million” and goes on to say “Lack of attendance made those earlier forecasts unattainable. Ticket sales were expected to generate $11.5 million in the fiscal 2011 budget. Sales for the year missed that target by 64%, with total admissions revenue of $4.1 million.” (read full article here)   
And the Charlotte Observer says “the CRVA claims the Hall lost about $1.4 million, its Visit Charlotte branch, which markets the city, lost about $720,000 and other facilities such as Ovens Auditorium and Bojangles' Coliseum lost smaller amounts.”    (read full article here)   
The problem is that the numbers provided by CRVA don’t match the Profit and Loss statements (see FY10 here).
The P&L Sheets show $1,163,073 for NASCAR Hall of Fame box office and ticket sales.  Even if the category “authority sponsored events” turns out to be more ticket sales at $347,275, it still wouldn’t add up to $4.1 million ticket sales as reported by the CRVA, but only about half. 
Their real LOSS BEFORE NON-OPERATING REVENUES is $4,283,027.  It’s only after the infusion of $3,162,659 from the unexplained CRVA Fund Balance that losses are diminished to the neighborhood of $1.4 million dollars reported.  And of course, no one will answer the loan status question.
As for the Visit Charlotte Branch, the real LOSS BEFORE NON-OPERATING REVENUES is $10,172,478.  After the Additional Operating Subsidy of $9,980,822, there’s still a reported loss of $191,656….  Where they came up with $720,000 in reported losses is a complete mystery for now.

Where are those numbers?
Here is the explanation of the two most enormous numbers on the LOSSES for the CRVA venues.  I remind you that the CRVA wouldn’t say prior to close of business Friday (or since) what these numbers represent, and the matrix of funding sources they provided only invites more questions…   
For the Visit Charlotte , both the Operating Expenses and Capital Expenses have Funding Sources defined in exactly the same way:  Collections from an County-wide hotel and motel tax; prepared food and beverage tax; and income from partnership organizations, housing, website income, and Visitor Center.   What partnership organizations?  What housing?  What about the rest?  And how much money for each?  Could we get some straight answers, PLEASE?
For the NASCAR Hall of Fame, the Funding Source is the Operating Surplus Generated by Operations (of which there clearly none at this point); and any deficits are covered by the CRVA FUND balance.  

Thanks for the concert ticket policy change, and cheaper dinners, but…
So, CRVA has introduced some new limitations on spending for meals, on the number of free concert tickets available for CRVA employees, and on whether money could be paid directly to employees from clients.  Of course, even with these introductions, they left themselves some wiggle room on that last item. 
Overall, though, I would prefer if they kept dancing at the concerts and eating out if that’s what it takes to get answers about the millions of dollars of tax and other currently unexplained money going to prop up these venues which the CRVA is operating at a

Note: while labeling seems to have changed, the Fiscal Year ends in June each year.

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