FAIRFIELD, Conn. – Fairfield plans to contribute about $782,000 in funding to nonprofit groups around town next year. But much of Monday night’s budget discussion focused on the $39,000 it pays as landlord, not as benefactor, as the town’s leaders questioned whether its agreement with the Fairfield Theater Company is in the best interest of taxpayers.
Per its lease, the Fairfield Theater Company rents a town-owned space at 70 Sanford St., across the street from the Fairfield Center train station. The nonprofit group is required to pay either $2 per ticket sold or the site’s tax value (about $42,000) as rent.
The group is far behind on its rent, Selectman James Walsh said Monday, paying just more than $1,000 toward its rent since July. “We are basically the creditor of last resort for this organization. We get paid last,” Walsh said. “Something needs to be done about it.”
As the building’s owner, Fairfield must pay for upkeep and utilities. The Department of Public Works handles maintenance, and it is unclear how much of its annual spending goes toward 70 Sanford St. But for electricity and natural gas it expects to pay $39,000 in the 2012-13 fiscal year. The theater company’s rent payments would normally cover that, if paid.
The Representative Town Meeting began taking a look at its leases with private groups in its annual report in January. The theater company was singled out as one of the “few problems” in the town’s system. The only group with a similar deal, A Child’s Garden day care, is fully up to date with its payments, Fiscal Officer Paul Hiller said Monday.
The Board of Selectmen and Board of Finance asked for more detailed numbers about the costs to the town of having the Fairfield Theater at 70 Sanford St. Finance board chairman Thomas Flynn said the government would need to decide whether its beneficial to have the group remain. But that process could be months or years in the future.
“Quite frankly, this in new information to most of us on the board,” Flynn said.