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Editor’s note: The following article marks the debut of The Aspen Times series “Nonprofit Profile,” which will run every Sunday. The purpose of the series is to provide readers a financial snapshot of local nonprofit organizations, based on their Form 990 tax returns, which are filed with the IRS and are open to public inspection. We will look at how much nonprofits compensate their directors, as well as their expenses and revenues, among other financial aspects. Questions, comments or suggestions can be sent to managing editor Rick Carroll at firstname.lastname@example.org.ASPEN The Aspen Shortsfest, a week-long smorgasbord of mini-films on the big screen, kicks off today with its local showcase and awards presentation before the projectors start blazing Tuesday. The Shortsfest, put on by Aspen Film, is one of the organization’s hallmark events of the year the others being FilmFest in the fall and the Aspen Academy Screenings in December. And when the events get into high gear, so does the fundraising and ticket sales it takes to put on the programs.
Indeed, Aspen Film’s productions put the town and organization on the map several times a year, thanks to past honorees such as Michael Douglas, Rob Reiner and Bob Rafelson. It also has a Educational Outreach Program that is accessible throughout the valley. “We serve locally, but we compete nationally and internationally,” says Laura Thielen, Aspen Film’s executive director.Aspen Film, which was founded in 1979, is a nonprofit organization. That means it pays few or no taxes, and underwrites its services through grants, gifts, corporate sponsorship, donations and revenue generated through the sales of tickets and concessions. Because it is based in the Red Brick Center for the Arts, Aspen Film’s rent isn’t based on free-market values. Its current rent, which includes parking and utilities, is $1,884.Aspen Film’s budget for 2006-07 is $741,250, according to Thielen.”We are very, very careful with our money,” adds board member Neil Karbank. “We are spending other people’s money, whether it’s a grant, whether it comes from the city, or if it’s from a wealthy person or from somebody who gave us $50. We owe everyone the duty of being selfless.”Karbank is vice president of Aspen Film’s board of directors, and a tax attorney as well. He’s the one who prepares Aspen Film’s Form 990s, which are filed annually with the Internal Revenue Service. None of Aspen Film’s board members are paid, and it typically has a paid staff of seven full-time workers. The last three tax returns reflect an increase of total revenue from $635,354 for the July 1, 2003 to June 30, 2004 tax year to $728,098 for the tax year from July 1, 2005 to June 30, 2006. Its total expenses last year were $705,567, of which approximately $315,000 was earmarked for its payroll.Thielen’s compensation package (which includes health insurance) was worth $79,319 for the most recent tax year, according to IRS records. That was lower than her package of $81,009 for the prior year. For the tax year of July 1, 2003 to June 30, 2004, Thielen’s compensation package was worth $68,265, records show. “Our staff works like dogs,” Karbank says. “In fact everyone is under paid. If I had my druthers, I’d pay everybody a lot more.”Ticket sales are a big part of Aspen Film’s revenue. Last year it fetched $259,725 in sales, more than one-third of its revenue. Membership dues brought in $150,599, and another $28,233 was earned in savings and temporary cash investments, records show. At $263,141, direct public support, or donations, also accounted for more than one-third of last year’s revenue, while Aspen Film received $26,400 in government grants.Total expenses last year were $705,567, leaving Aspen Film with a balance of $22,531, records show. In addition to meeting its payroll, Aspen Film’s expenses run the gamut. Equipment rental cost $54,638 last year, while another $25,247 was spent on travel. Postage and shipping cost the organization $11,572, and $38,928 went toward management and general expenses, such as money spent on office furniture, computer software and the telephone system. Aspen Film spent $27,518 on payroll taxes, $13,677 on printing and publications, as well as $15,481 on accounting fees.By the end of the most recent tax year, Aspen Film had $476,521 in cash reserves, data shows. Eighty-percent of that will go toward Aspen Film’s future headquarters, the Isis Theater, Karbank and Thielen said. The rest is dedicated to an endowment that funds an annual prize named for Ellen Hunt, who founded Shortsfest.
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Max Weintraub has been senior curator at the Aspen Art Museum since January 2019.