Organizers of Deerfield Beach's Mango Festival will make an appearance at this evening's commission meeting in hopes they can convince city officials to give them $25,000 toward reviving the summer soiree of music and food.
But those organizers are likely to hear the same caveats they heard last year when they came looking for city money. Unlike past commissions, the current one wants to see a thorough accounting of Mango Festival finances to ensure that the city's investment is being used responsibly.
"The bottom line is that they're going to have to prove to me where and how the money for this festival was spent in the past," says Commissioner Bill Ganz, who says he never saw the audit he asked for last year.
This past November, I posted this article about the Mango Festival's apparent math problem. The organizers' claims about low attendance were at odds with crowd estimates given by people who attended the festival. That, plus the absence of any means for monitoring the cash being handled at the festival's gate, raises concern that revenue from the event could be skimmed.
"I think any organization who has been putting on an event for so many years should be able to properly plan it and to have good solid numbers for what to expect in attendance," says Ganz.
He points out that the Mango is the only one of the city's major festivals that charges an entry fee, in addition to the thousands it receives from the city. "I don't know how that's allowed, quite frankly," he says. "Clearly, the event fee should be used to offset the cost for the city, but I've never had any indication that the city has ever received money back from what we put in."
For past Mango Festivals, organizers have received well over $100,000 from the city. Even if they get $25,000, it's anyone's guess how they're going to cobble together a worthwhile event on such a shoestring budget.
And that's hardly a sure thing. Ganz is obviously going to be a tough vote to corral. At the last commission meeting, Commissioner Marty Popelsky declared that he's long suspected city festivals like the Mango were mismanaging their public dollars. And last year, Mayor Peggy Noland expressed doubt that Mango organizers were reporting accurate attendance figures, which may be an indication she's also skeptical about the event.
Currently, the Mango Festival is among the city expenses that is being analyzed by a forensic auditor, Kessler International.