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Jefferson Center seeks urgent funding from city
Jefferson Center is asking Roanoke City for $6 million over the next six years to make repairs to its 100-year-old building that leaders say are critical for its survival.
Cyrus Pace, the arts and music venue’s executive director, said Jefferson Center also needs a quick infusion of $250,000 cash.
“Jefferson Center has one to two years of useful life unless there is timely investment from the city,” Pace told members of City Council on Monday. He added in an email Tuesday, “That timeline might even be shorter if the immediate capital needs, which include fire safety equipment, can't be funded with emergency support.”
Busted sprinkler heads in the main Shaftman Performance Hall risks running afoul of the fire code; a heating and cooling unit serving an atrium is on the fritz; and the main doors need replacing to prevent patrons from being locked out during intermissions, he said.
Describing itself as “Roanoke's premier performing arts and cultural center,” Jefferson Center hosts about 100 annual shows, from Opera Roanoke to Roanoke Ballet Theatre productions.
In the 1980s, city leaders saved the old Jefferson High School from demolition by pledging to turn the 1922 building into a center for arts, education, social services and small businesses. In 1989, the Jefferson Center Foundation formed and the city and private donors eventually gave $9 million for renovations.
The city still owns the property, but a lease agreement with Jefferson Center means the nonprofit is on the hook for repairs to the 131,000-square-foot building. Now that maintenance backlog has caught up. A study commissioned from a local architecture and engineering firm shows Jefferson Center has more than $6 million in “critical needs.”
“After a 30 year track record of success in operations and fundraising, we have discovered we will never have the level of surplus needed to sustain the building,” Pace said.
City Council members expressed support for the role that Jefferson Center plays in the city’s arts scene. They said they would need to discuss with city staff about whether and when the city could provide immediate funding and discuss longer-term support.
Annual city funding is already budgeted, so it probably won’t be until November until the city can project whether it will have an end-of-year surplus, City Manager Bob Cowell said.
“This is all about trade-offs,” Cowell told Council members. “Ultimately, I have to come back to you with, ‘Here are some options.’ Right now, one of our elevators doesn’t work in this building [city hall]. I’ve got roofs that are leaking through this building. … I've got probably $7 million worth of expenses in the jail that you will have to weigh also.”
Pace said the center’s donors “overwhelmingly” wanted to know whether the city would help with finances before making their own pledges — generally for programming, not for building issues.
“Fundraising alone will not solve the challenges that are looming,” he said, “and without an early commitment for the city, our fundraising efforts will be hampered and may not even begin.”
Carilion posts losses in pandemic year
Recovering from the pandemic, Carilion Clinic lost $57 million in its fiscal year that ended in September 2022, according to financial reports that the hospital system recently shared with local media.
It was the first negative balance — a 2.5 percent margin on $2.2 billion in revenue — in a dozen years.
Government pandemic relief helped Carilion weather the storm, but officials last year projected there would be a loss — citing supply chain issues, inflation and the cancelation of elective surgeries and non-emergency care.
CEO Nancy Agee said this month that Carilion anticipates another negative operating margin for the fiscal year that ends this month.
Despite the losses, Agee said major construction projects — including the Crystal Spring Tower and Carilion Mental Health at Tanglewood Mall — remain on schedule.
The nonprofit hospital system aims for an annual 3 to 5 percent operating margin, which Carilion says it reinvests in community projects, such as a children’s health clinic at Fallon Park Elementary School.
In a statement, Agee identified several ways Carilion is trying to save money: Reducing the use of contracted labor, such as travel nurses, whose use increased during Covid; and hiring physicians focused exclusively on telemedicine.
Carilion’s latest 990, a tax form that certain nonprofits must file with the Internal Revenue Service, also lists the system’s highest-paid employees. Agee’s total compensation was $2.66 million last year. The next highest were physicians Jonathan Carmouche and Gregory Howes, making a total of $1.8 million each, according to the records.
Post-primary, White-Boyd outraises Suetterlein
Since winning a June Democratic primary, Trish White-Boyd raised more money than her well funded opponent state Sen. David Suetterlein, R-Roanoke County, according to campaign finance reports.
White-Boyd, a member of Roanoke City Council, raised $106,257.40 in cash from July through the end of August, to Suetterlein’s $94,308.03, reports show. Including in-kind donations, White-Boyd took in $121,757.40 to Suetterlein’s $111,731.03
The pair are competing in a newly redistricted, Republican-leaning seat that includes Roanoke City, Salem and parts of Roanoke County and Montgomery County.
Suetterlein still holds a significant cash advantage — with an end balance of $472,449.12 leading into the Nov. 7 general election, to White-Boyd’s $60,366.14.
White-Boyd’s biggest haul was $30,000 from the war chest of Sen. John Edwards, D-Roanoke, who opted not to seek reelection.
Suetterlein’s biggest donors included another $35,000 in August from Clean Virginia Fund, which aims to counteract Dominion Energy’s lobbying. The group has given Suetterlein $145,000 to date, records show.
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