Cost of using KCC theater could be going way, way up

The factors leading to a decision to raise rates for public use of the Kaua‘i Community College Performing Arts Center range from natural disasters to the absurd.

In the absurd category is the fact that while state funds were used to build the facility, no such funds were allocated to operate it.

When Hurricane ‘Iniki struck in September of 1992 just before the facility was preparing to open, doing significant damage to the center, funds used to rebuild the facility prohibited the rebuilding of a separate cooling system for the center.

So, now, when groups use the PAC on certain nights or weekends when nothing else is going on at the college, every building on campus needs to be cooled down for the benefit of the users of one building.

The cost: About $1,000 for electricity alone.

Rumors remain running rampant among the island’s artisan community that the PAC will be closed in a cost-cutting move, but KCC Provost Peggy Cha said yesterday those rumors are unfounded.

Yes, the college must slash $144,000, or around 2 percent to 3 percent, from its 2003-04 school-year budget, due to state income shortfalls.

And, yes, fourth on a four-point list of college priorities is service to the community, under which the PAC falls.

And, yes, the PAC remains as it always has been, without a manager.

But, no, the PAC will not be closed down, Cha said Wednesday.

“PAC will always be an important facility to the college, and important for the community,” she said. “Supporting the cultural life of the island is part of the college’s role.”

But suppliers of cultural opportunities not affiliated with the college will have to begin paying more of the actual operating costs when wishing to hold their functions at PAC, she said.

Not the entire $1,000 bill for cooling the entire campus for after-hours or weekend events, but a higher share than they’re used to paying now, she said.

“We need to be able to cover some of those costs. We feel that we found something workable,” said Cha, adding that the solution college leaders find “workable” will “be difficult for some smaller nonprofits.”

The fee schedule is still a work in progress, Cha said, as is the plan to slash the college’s operating budget to adhere to cuts demanded of each state department ordered by Gov. Linda Lingle.

The governor is attempting to adjust the state budget down due to lower-than-anticipated state tax revenues.

All are hoping for good news, Cha said, when the Council on Revenues meets in September to formulate the state’s revenue-stream projections and analyze current revenue-stream realities.

Even if current and projected revenue pictures aren’t as rosy as expected, it will probably take another natural disaster to shut down the PAC, either temporarily or for good, she said.

“We feel that it is a tremendous community resource.”

In the meantime, a fund-raising campaign has been launched, aiming for a $1 million endowment that would allow for grants to nonprofit groups wishing to use the facility.

Friends of the PAC has been formed, Kalaheo’s Sab Yoshioka is the chair, and the group started an adopt-a-seat scheme that has already seen 37 people pay $1,000 each to have their names placed on seats in the 560-seat facility.

Donations from local businesses and family foundations have added $200,000 more to the pot.

“If there was more usage of the PAC which brought in revenue, we could set up a long-term plan to buy a separate chiller system,” said Cha. But with the current state-budget situation, funds for new projects will be impossible to obtain, she fears.

“Our first priority, as an educational institution, must be our students. We have to put our priority on our graduating students.”

Business Editor Paul C. Curtis can be reached at pcurtis@pulitzer.net or 245-3681 (ext. 224).

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