Auburn Schine Theater

The Schine Theater on South Street in downtown Auburn.

The Citizen file

The Cayuga County Arts Council, owner of the Auburn Schine Theater and leader of the effort to restore it, has addressed two unanswered questions about its operations a year after The Citizen reported them.

The first concerns the council's annual filings with the Charities Bureau of the New York State Office of the Attorney General.

Before 2010, the council reported its net worth in the filings as being within the range of $250,000 to $1 million, or $1 million to $10 million.

The majority of that value came from the Schine itself, which the council reported as being worth $991,768 in 2009, the last year for which the council's extended tax return is publicly available. And the majority of that value came from a line item called "construction in progress," which accounts for the capital invested into the building's restoration.

In 2010, however, the council began claiming in its Charities Bureau filings an exemption available to nonprofits with less than $25,000 in net worth. It has done so through 2014, the last year for which the council's filing is publicly available. (Its 2015 filing is not on the bureau's website, so it appears to be past due.)

That change in net worth, then, would appear to reflect a change in the council's valuation of the Schine. And that is indeed the case, council board of directors Chairman Jim Loperfido said in an email Thursday.

"It is my belief that (the Schine) has no value," he said.

Loperfido explained his statement by citing the Schine's 2016 assessment by the city of Auburn: $55,700 for the 16 South St. land parcel, and $187,000 for both that land and the 1938 John Eberson movie theater occupying it.

Because the theater is contaminated with asbestos and will require as much as $700,000 in remediation work, Loperfido continued, it is of no value — not even its full market value of $187,000 — until that work takes place. The council board chairman's opinion echoes that of Fred Farrell, who appraised the Schine property for the city. 

"I don't think you can get a $1 million value out of it because it doesn't have a function. It's a shell," Farrell told The Citizen in 2015. "Cost doesn't always equal value."

Loperfido said the council has been in contact with the Charities Bureau, and that it has agreed that the Schine's reported value should be $55,700. The council's 2014 and 2015 filings have been amended accordingly, he continued.

A representative of the attorney general's office did not immediately respond to a request to confirm the agreement. The office also did not respond to earlier requests for comment about the filings.

The Cayuga County Arts Council's second unanswered question concerns a raffle it held at its September 2014 Artini fundraiser.

The raffle prize was a painting by Gary Jacobs depicting the Schine auditorium as the council hopes to restore it. Tickets were sold that night. However, there was a miscommunication between the council board and the Artini committee, Loperfido said, and the painting was never awarded to anyone.

In September 2015, Loperfido said the tickets sold at Artini would be pooled with those sold at a film series he was organizing for that fall. Then, he continued, a winner would be drawn and the painting would be awarded. However, the series' lecturer dropped out, and it was canceled as a result.

In February 2016, Loperfido said the raffle would reopen that spring and summer as the council launched a series of outreach meetings and film-related programming. However, neither appears to have taken place.

Meanwhile, the legality of the raffle became a question on March 24, 2015 — 180 days after it was held at Artini. Per the New York State Gaming Commission's laws about charitable gaming, raffle tickets may not be sold more than 180 days prior to the drawing of the winning ticket. 

Feb. 9, a commission spokesperson said that it "is actively looking into the matter."

Then, on Thursday, Loperfido admitted that the raffle was "truly a gaffe on our part," and that the council is no longer pursuing it.

The council will therefore refund any tickets purchased for the raffle, Loperfido said. People seeking refunds can contact the council at (315) 255-3074 or office@cayugacountyartscouncil.com.

"We apologize for any confusion this may have caused, and thank everyone who has supported our events in the past," he said.

Lake Life Editor David Wilcox can be reached at (315) 282-2245 or david.wilcox@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter @drwilcox.

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Features editor for The Citizen.