The show must go on and thanks to a Mobile City Council vote on Sept. 17 it will indeed at the Saenger Theater.
After one change was made to an agreement between the city and SMG, the councilors voted unanimously to approve a much-debated contract for the company to manage the historic theater for the next three years.
The amendment that pleased reluctant councilors and SMG was an assurance the city would not pay anything over the $200,000 it historically gives the management of the Saenger. If SMG operates the theater with more than a $200,000 deficit, the city has the option of getting out of the contract unless SMG pays the city money to make up the difference.
Sam Voisin, SMG regional general manager, said he is hopeful SMG will not have to cough up any money.
“We have worked with the city to make sure this is a win-win situation,” he said. “I don’t see SMG having to pay the city anything. We want to make sure the city and the community have a vibrant Saenger.”
President of Huka Entertainment A.J. Niland and Voisin kept mum on the acts coming to Saenger, but said the eager residents should expect some announcements to come sometime after Sept. 23. Huka will be working to book acts at the Saenger while SMG runs the day-to-day operations.
The Sept. 17 council meeting was quite different from a week earlier. During the earlier meeting, four councilors pushed for a vote, but the forced vote did not work in favor for those supporting the SMG-Huka union, as three councilors still wanted adjustments to the contract.
The measure failed on Sept. 10 by a vote of 4-3, with Gina Gregory, John Williams and Bess Rich opposing the three-year deal.
Rich said she wanted there to be language that made sure the city wouldn’t be responsible for more than $200,000. In the end, she got what she wanted as the council and SMG worked together over the week to come up with a contract they could both live with.
SMG takes over management on Oct. 1 and will have the theater through Sept. 30, 2016. The city could also extend the terms for up to three additional one-year periods.
SMG will be paid by receiving 50 percent of the first $200,000 of the net operating loss/profit and then 25 percent of the net operating loss/profit the theatre brings in above $200,000.
The city will still be responsible for capital equipment and improvements to the theatre. However, SMG is responsible for routine maintenance.
With the Saenger Theater managed, the councilors received some good news in the monthly finance report. City Finance Director Barbara Malkove said the city’s revenues are up and expenses are down.
“General fund sales taxes through the month of August 2013 are over budget by $1,145.377 and are almost $6.3 million more that last year. Total revenues are over budget by $1.8 million without regard to transfers from other funds,” she said. “With 11 months reporting, our sales taxes in all funds are up $21.3 million from 2012 to 2013. Annualized, sales tax has brought in $33 million per one-cent sales tax in all funds of the city budget.”
When the sales tax increase was being discussed, Malkove estimated a cent earns about $30 million. That number has now gone up through increased sales.
Expenses are also down in the city departments.
“Departmental expenditures, which are carefully monitored, are under budget by $1,157,687. Fuel and repair costs have leveled off for this year but we will need to budget an increase in the 2013-2014 budget. Total expenditures are under budget $814,615. Due to increased cost of WAVE Transit and the pension system, transfers are over budget by $3.6 million,” Malkove said.