The financially troubled Okra Strut can end its red ink through a mix of extra income and spending cuts, festival chairman Kirk Luther told Irmo Town Council on Monday.
The plan outlined to town leaders includes adding corporate sponsors, getting up to $25,000 in aid from Richland County and trimming a variety of expenses.
“Our goal is to break even or do better,” Luther said.
That’s what town leaders want after continued deficits that they say has left the nationally recognized festival nearly broke.
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“Breaking even or coming close is what I care about,” Councilwoman Kathy Condom said. “We just need to fix it.”
The plan includes approximately $45,000 in new revenue and $30,000 less in expenses. town officials say.
So far, it doesn’t include an increased town subsidy or admission fee. But the plan is “a work in progress,” Luther said.
The plan submitted for the 42nd edition of the festival in September envisions it can be held for slightly less than $100,000, he said. That’s about $20,000 less overall, officials said.
Luther urged town leaders not to press the festival to “go cheap” on bands for the two-day event, saying entertainment is the main attraction.
Recent gatherings have drawn about 16,000 persons each, town officials say.
The festival has been unprofitable since 2007 through overspending and unrealistic revenue expectations, officials say.
Town Hall chipped in nearly $100,000 to cover deficits during the past two years, officials say.
Complaints that the festival is not watching finances closely are “a little unwarranted,” Luther said.
An independent panel runs the festiva, but its decisions must fit within spending limits that town leaders plan to set by spring.
Luther warned town leaders against interfering too much in festival operations, saying “you don’t realize all the work involved.”
That sentiment drew some support.
“We don’t need to be micromanaging,” Councilman Barry Walker agreed.