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Home / Articles / · Archive / News & Columns /  Will Smile for Cash Page 3
News & Columns

Will Smile for Cash Page 3

Feature: At $43 million and counting, The Leonardo Museum better kick some ass.

By Stephen Dark
Posted // August 29,2007 - THE NUMBERS GAME
“One hesitation people have is putting money into a public building,” says The Leonardo’s early fund-raising consultant, Pathways Associates’ Dave Jones.

So Jones and The Leonardo went to the City Council, which agreed to go to the voters for a $10 million tax bond for the construction, conditional on the museum matching that amount for exhibit development. The $10.2 million figure was based on an estimate from local firm VCBO Architecture in order to retrofit the building, abate asbestos and make it earthquake-safe.

If the first black hole in The Leonardo story is why arguably three disparate partners were brought together, the second is why VCBO’s estimate was so low. Anderson acknowledges it was understated. Some speculate it was low-balled to make the $10.2 million pitch more palatable to voters. VCBO did not return a call for comment. Anderson regrets not asking for more at the time. “If I could wind back the clock,” he says, “I would have loved to have gone to the voters with a $25 million or $30 million bond and done this the right way.”

hspace=5After Salt Lake City’s voters approved the $10.2 million bond, The Leonardo’s team then had to raise the matching funds to trigger the bond money.

Which leads to black hole No. 3.

In February 2006, Salt Lake City Corporation finance director Gordon Hoskins sent a letter to Tull to confirm that, after examining the museum’s fund-raising efforts through December 2005, it had matched the city’s $10.2 million bond. Part of that match was $5.6 million in pledges. Yet, only four months later, The Leonardo’s annual report showed assets of just $3.8 million. Somehow, at least two-thirds of the money it had raised for exhibit and program development had not made it to the balance sheet.

Of those pledges, it turns out, $3.4 million are guarantees, which means, Tull says, “It is pledged if a certain condition arises.” While the city lists this money as a pledge, The Leonardo’s auditors, as per accounting rules, view it differently and list it off the balance sheet as a note.

A whopping $3.1 million of those guarantees was an anonymous donation. “It’s not the most common thing in the world,” says fund-raising expert Jones about such a large gift with no name attached for recognition.

Along with its mixed bag of pledges, the city also accepted, as being part of The Leonardo’s matching funds, receipts and donations from the Exodus exhibit of over $190,000. In total, the exhibition generated around $400,000 in revenues, but also cost just as much to put on. Wyffels says the exhibition made a tiny profit of several hundred dollars.

Whether the city should include part of the exhibition’s revenues without taking away expenses is debatable. Although Anderson says he shouldn’t take a position, his first response is that whatever remains of net revenues after deducting expenses might be acceptable.   >>

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Posted // August 30,2007 at 06:03 Stephen Dark is to be complimented. Having worked obliquely with various parties at various times - the CDA, the Leonardo, and SLC Corp - I found the issue difficult to get my arms around and comprehensively understand it well, especially understanding how it developed and continued to grow, and as a result, what problems exist now and into the future. nnThis article has provided an excellent, fairly comprehensive explanation of most of this. Thanks for the great work!