Kansas City's American Jazz Museum Still Owes $150,000 To Festival Vendors

Jul 20, 2017

The American Jazz Museum still has about $150,000 in outstanding vendor bills. That’s despite catching up on payments to the musicians who played at the Kansas City Jazz and Heritage Festival over Memorial Day weekend.

On Wednesday, executive director Cheptoo Kositany-Buckner updated the city's finance and audit committee. 

"Looking back right now, we were probably too ambitious in focusing our estimated ticket sales. And the weekend storms further depressed our ticket and vendor sales," said Kositany-Buckner. "We have a plan in place to eliminate the fiscal deficit from the festival." 

This plan, she says, includes reducing operating expenses. The museum has also extended its line of credit, and received an advance from the city. 

According to Kositany-Buckner, vendors are expected to be paid within the next three to six months. 

"I believe that this is an important festival for us as a city," she said, "but I know we need to correct the mistakes moving forward." 

Larry Kipps, of Aching Backline Rentals, provided stage gear for the bands, and estimates he’s owed about $15,000. He told the committee he’s been around a lot of festivals, and he thinks some count too much on ticket sales.

"And I think that’s the case here," he said. "Otherwise I would have been paid." 

To cover some of the unpaid bills from the festival, $117,000 in city funds were distributed in advance. The city provides about $500,000 each year to the museum. 

Councilman Scott Wagner, who heads up the finance and audit committee, says he understands emergencies happen, but he's concerned. 

"This in my opinion was a foreseeable emergency, and now we have a potential operational deficit, perhaps," said Wagner. "I just want to impart that it’s my expectation that it gets fixed."

The committee requested that museum officials return before the end of the year to provide another update on its finances. 

Laura Spencer is an arts reporter at KCUR 89.3. You can reach her on Twitter @lauraspencer.