In Sitka, discussions about school funding often overlook the Sitka Performing Arts Center (PAC), a facility that has been managed by a local nonprofit on behalf of the Sitka School District for the last few years. However, as the contract for managing the PAC is due to expire this summer, the nonprofit has requested an annual fee of $125,000 from the city to continue its management to cover increasing operational costs.

The Sitka Performing Arts Center, established in 2008, was initially operated by the school district. By 2019, facing a budget shortfall, a cooperative agreement was forged between the city, the school district, and Alaska Arts Southeast, part of the Sitka Fine Arts Camp, for the PAC’s management. This arrangement had the city paying for utilities, the schools handling heating and maintenance, and the fine arts camp overseeing management without charging a management fee, relying instead on rental revenues.

However, with the contract ending and financial challenges arising, the Fine Arts Camp has indicated the need for additional support from the city to maintain the PAC’s operations and support its programs. Roger Schmidt, executive director of SFAC, highlighted the importance of the PAC for school music and theater programs, viewing the previous arrangement as a temporary solution during financial difficulties. The camp’s business director, Drew Sherman, pointed out the financial gap in operating costs versus revenue, emphasizing the need for funds to break even and continue updating the facility.

The city assembly discussed the possibility of drafting a request for proposals (RFP) for managing the PAC, with some members expressing a preference for continuing the partnership with the fine arts camp due to their expertise. Mayor Steven Eisenbeisz emphasized the importance of clear maintenance responsibilities in the RFP, especially as the building ages. The assembly agreed to proceed with drafting an RFP to allow Alaska Arts Southeast and potentially other organizations to submit bids for managing the PAC, which will be discussed in a future meeting.

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