A Sarasota dance school is offering to take a $120,000 budget item off the city’s hands.
Ballroom City, which currently conducts lessons and events in the Payne Park Auditorium, presented an unsolicited proposal to city commissioners Oct. 4. It would like to take over maintenance and operations of the facility in exchange for a $1 annual lease for five years.
“Our intent is to set up a (nonprofit organization) to teach kids to dance for free,” said Jim Helmich, Ballroom City owner.
Helmich would allow other current users of the auditorium to continue to use it and is offering to let the city keep any revenue from those users.
Commissioners seemed puzzled as to how Ballroom City would be able to afford to operate and maintain the building without that income.
Even with the collected income now, taxpayers subsidize the facility for $24,000 per year.
“I’d be teaching private lessons and adult classes,” said Helmich. “A portion of that money would go to the nonprofit to teach the children.”
The commission had a mixed reaction to the proposal.
Commissioner Dick Clapp said he found the idea intriguing, but with the possible privatization of the Payne Park skate park along with this proposal, he wanted to explore having a large group oversee all operations at the park.
Mayor Kelly Kirschner agreed.
“I support the conversation (with Ballroom City), but there should be a larger conversation for the vision for the park,” he said.
Commissioner Terry Turner was wary of the privatization push in Sarasota. For example, former
Commissioner Ken Shelin is exploring the private takeover of Selby Five Points Park.
“I’m not sure we go to where private entities take over all our parks and public facilities,” he said.
Ultimately, no decision was reached, but Helmich planned to submit a business proposal to the commission, while it considered his proposal.
Contact Robin Roy at [email protected].