WASHINGTON CITY — While the Washington City Council agreed to fund Brigham’s Playhouse with half of the RAP tax funds it requested at the council’s regular meeting Wednesday, the future of the theater may still be in question.
Applications for portions of the city’s Recreation Arts and Parks tax revenue were up for approval Wednesday night, and among those applying was Brigham’s Playhouse, a local theater that opened in 2014.
Jamie Young, the theater’s executive director, had requested $53,000 from the city, but only $26,600 for six months of operation was approved due to concerns over the theater’s future.
“Part of the concern is the possibility that Brigham’s Playhouse may not be here,” Councilman Jeff Turek said.
Turek related a discussion that transpired the night prior between Young and the City Council during a work meeting about the RAP tax request and the theater’s future, to which Young said he could commit to keep Brigham’s Playhouse open through the end of 2019.
“So $53,000 only lasting six months, how is that going to benefit our community?” Turek said. “One of the thoughts I had is that we fund $25,000 through January, and they come back and say, ‘Yeah, we’re going to be here another six months.’ We’ll fund the rest at that point.”
Young said the theater’s rent at the Cottontown Village has risen to the point it’s become cost prohibitive, and due to previous issues related to the council’s hesitancy to grant the theater’s RAP tax requests, Young didn’t apply for the funding in January 2018.
“We’ve really struggled financially to survive,” Young said. “The RAP funding has been a great assistance to us to be able to continue offering youth in the community the programming we do and also the other high-quality productions.”
As to the rent issue, other locations both within and outside of Washington City have been looked at, but Young said the latter is not being pursued.
Washington City takes RAP tax applications in December and June, with allocations being awarded in January and July.
The council ultimately voted to give Brigham’s Playhouse $26,600 with a recommendation to come back in January for the rest.
Councilman Troy Belliston made his misgivings known throughout Wednesday’s discussion due to the city giving funds to a for-profit group versus a nonprofit one as both state and city code dictates. This concern resulted in his voting against approving a previous RAP tax application from Brigham’s Playhouse.
“I will say that six months ago I voted against this because the 501(c)(3) wasn’t even in process, and we’re at the same point. I won’t approve it again,” Belliston said.
Brigham’s Playhouse has begun the process of becoming a nonprofit, Young said, using a for-profit entity as a fiscal sponsor through which the RAP tax would go.
However, while they have the framework in place, the theater isn’t able to register as a nonprofit with the IRS yet because of debt that can’t be transferred from a for-profit entity to a nonprofit one. So until Brigham’s Playhouse gets the debt paid off, the process is stalled.
“The council’s been very patient with us in that process, but the patience is gone,” Young said.
Despite receiving half of the requested funding, Young said Brigham’s Playhouse is grateful to receive it.
Brigham’s Playhouse opened in early 2014 and has brought over 120,000 people through its doors, Young said, adding it has provided a measure of economic benefit to the surrounding area, as patrons of the theater also visit shops and restaurants nearby.
Young also said the theater enhances the quality of life for the many youth and adults who have taken part in the theater’s programs and productions. It’s helped them develop confidence, self-esteem, better communication skills and other character-building traits, he said.
“Thousands of youth and adults have been able to participate and are better for it,” Young said.
Following the council’s vote, only a handful of attendees stayed for the remainder of the meeting, as the majority of those in the audience were there to support Brigham’s Playhouse.
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