The International Storytelling Center is entering a new chapter in its tale of financial woes.
Jim Reel, chairman of the International Storytelling Centers Board of Governors, told the Herald & Tribune that while the centers future is still very much in the hands of the federal bankruptcy court, ISC leadership is busy making changes they believe will strengthen the organization for the future.
Were planning to come out of this, of course, Reel said. And we are planning to have our three main functions continue the Storytelling Festival, the Teller-In-Residence program and the operation of our gift shop. Those are our main sources of revenue.
But it isnt going to be just business as usual at the facility.
Were trimming down. Salaries have been adjusted by 10 percent and weve let one person go, Reel said. After we see what direction the court wants us to go, there will probably be more adjustments.
According to ISC President Jimmy Neil Smith, budget cuts totaling somewhere between $200,000 and $225,000 have already been made, with more being considered.
The ISC was scheduled to make an appearance in U.S. Bankruptcy Court on Tuesday morning to continue with its proceedings.
Meanwhile, a deadline for the organization to file its Statement of Financial Affairs and Schedule of Assets was extended from Jan. 14 to Jan. 26.
According to filings with the court system, the ISC owes money to more than 50 businesses and individuals. Debts owed to the top 20 of those creditors add up to $3.8 million, including $2.5 milion owed to Tennessee Rural Development for the construction of the center.
Among the smaller debts, the Town of Jonesborough is owed more than $2,600 in taxes from the ISC. According to Town Recorder Abbey Miller, the ISC is delinquent in filing its 2009 taxes and has through February to file its 2010 taxes before being considered delinquent for a second year in a row.
Although the ISC is a non-profit, tax-exempt organization, taxes must be paid on the gift shop portion of the facility, Miller noted.
The ISC also owes Washington County taxes, according to court documents.
Meanwhile, local businesses including the Eureka Inn, Main Street Cafe, the Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center and AmericInn were also listed as being owed money by the organization. Individuals who are owed money by the ISC include Jonesborough Alderman Terry Countermine, Limestone resident James Powell, local businessman Rab Summers and Jonesborough resident Tami Moore.
The ISC filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Dec. 31, 2010, citing the last few years of plummeting festival revenues as its downfall.
A benefactor of the ISC reportedly paid $30,000 to retain Mark Dessauer, of Hunter, Smith & Davis, to represent the organization in the bankruptcy proceedings.
According to Reel, the ISCs governing board is set to meet in late February to address the financial state of the organization and put a plan in motion as far as the future of the ISC.
The Board reportedly plans to keep Smith as the ISCs Chief Operating Officer and CEO.
But, Reel said, the board is going to take more of a direct hand in the finances. Were going to help him and his staff. Theyve done a good job, but we need to be as rigid as possible.
A major player in the plan to exercise more financial control will be the Board of Governors newest member, Sonia King, who was elected to serve on the board in January.
King is the daughter of the late Mary B. Martin, whose name graces the entrance of Storytelling Center Hall. It was named for Martin after Jim Martin made a $1 million donation to the ISC in late 2008 in his wifes memory.
(King) comes to us from one of the leading accounting firms in the United States and her experience as an accounting person will be very helpful, Reel said.
King, who resides in Johnson City, will serve with Dr. William Kennedy on a two-person finance committee.
Reel said he is heartened by the response from both creditors and the committee during the ISCs financial crisis.
Most of our creditors have been very understanding. No one has gotten up in arms or said nasty things, Reel said. Most everyones reaction has been very favorable and supportive.
A creditors meeting is scheduled to take place in U.S. Bankrupty Court in Greeneville on Jan. 31.
LIST OF CREDITORS:
Bank of America
Capital Bank and Trust
Central Paper and Supply Co.
Dell Business Credit
First Tennessee Bank
Independent Publishers Group
Hillhouse Graphic Design, LLC
Everything Gifts, LLC
Fresh Air Photographics
Historic Jonesborough Visitors Center
Internal Revenue Service
AmericInn of Jonesborough
Brentwood Professional Center, Inc.
Central Heating and Air Co., LLC
City of Johnson City
East Tennessee Rent Alls
FIA Card Services
Gryphon House, Inc.
Horton Sports d/b/a
Jimmy Neil Smith
Jonesborough City Tax Collector
Mail Works, Inc.
National Storytelling Network
Peachtree Publishers, Ltd.
Tennessee Department of Revenue
United States Trustee
Main Street Cafe
New Peoples Bank
Penguin Putnam, Inc.
River City Publishing, LLC
Patricia Foster, Esq.
Pitney Bowes Purchase Power
United Elevator Services
Washington County Trustee