Taxpayers Ask Why
What Happened at Old School Square
Old School Square (OSS) is a cultural and arts complex located in the Old School Square Historic District in the heart of downtown Delray Beach. For over 30 years, Old School Square Center for the Arts (OSSCA), a 501©3 non-profit, provided arts and cultural programming in historic 100-year-old buildings. The City Commission – with no advance notice, public debate, staff work, or plan for alternatives – unceremoniously booted OSSCA off the cultural campus.
The citizens of Delray have been deprived of top-flight cultural activities for over 18 months. The reopening of the renovated Crest Theater was scheduled for the fall of 2022. It will probably not open until 2024 or maybe 2025. The buildings are dark. No theater productions, no program of concerts, no art school, and until recently no art museum. All because three Commissioners didn’t do their homework. They didn’t read the clean audits produced (for every year of our existence) and they didn’t sit down with OSSCA board members to discuss the concerns the City Auditor had regarding compliance with the lease agreement between the City and OSSCA not for profit.
Misguided City Commission Action
One Commissioner suggested a probationary period for the OSSCA to address concerns by the Commissioners. That was rejected. Several times reconsideration or workshops were proposed, then rejected. In January 2022, OSSCA proposed what most would consider a reasonable settlement to the dispute. That was also rejected.
Now, the City Commission is embarked on a path to substitute privately raised funds from donors and foundations with taxpayer dollars. This decision was made by the City Commission without benefit of public notice, public input, or a financial plan that reflected the true cost to taxpayers.
Now going on two years (come this August) the City still does not have a financial plan for the campus. They cannot tell the taxpayers the total cost of their ill-considered decision. But here is what we do know:
If and when an alternative solution is found for taking over the cultural center, it will cost the taxpayers millions of dollars. Every year. As a non-profit, less than 20-25% of OSSCA’s budget came from the City from a CRA grant that was earned (and paid in arrears). Now City taxpayers will absorb the entire $3.5 million operating budget (based on OSSCA’s projected budget). In addition, the renovation of the jewel of the campus, the Crest Theater, will cost the City at least $1.5 million compared to OSSCA’s plan to fund this project entirely by donations.
We, the Board of Directors of Old School Square Center for the Arts, are a dedicated group of volunteers who love Delray Beach. We are locals. We live and work in Delray. We look forward to the day we can all work together again for the benefit of our beautiful town.
As Citizens, We Have a Voice and a Choice
Talking to friends and neighbors
Speaking up in public meetings
Emailing to Delray’s elected officials
Keep on Persevering
Year of Darkness – Your Delray Boca
Delray’s Bizarre Old School Square Talk and Local Election Landscapes – Boca Magazine
Debacle of the Year – Delray Beach Magazine
Why the city of Delray Beach lost my $2.4 million donation to Old School Square – Sun Sentinel
Metrics for Old School Square Campus