John Graham

Bags of cotton candy, circus hats and a circus uniform disappeared from the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus in one of two thefts last week at the Frank Erwin Center. 

According to Erwin Center director John Graham, UTPD reports numerous thefts at the Erwin Center each year. Graham said no particular special precautions are taken to prevent thefts at large events, such as the circus, despite the large number of people in attendance. 

The Ringling Bros. Circus performed at the center from Aug. 17-24. The circus comes several times a year to Austin and holds several different shows. 

Sunday, circus staff reported seeing a man trying to take a souvenir cup and a stuffed animal from some displays. The man also tried to take a camera from one of the tripods available for event photographs, according to UTPD records. Police stopped the man after seeing him try to return the stuffed animal without a sales receipt. The man’s stepdaughter then gave the police the items the man had stolen, including a bag of cotton candy. UTPD let him leave after the encounter.

Thursday, a staff member at the circus reported that another theft had occurred. This time a circus uniform, circus hats and bags of cotton candy were stolen. According to UTPD records, the staff member did not see the theft take place but told police the items were taken sometime between Wednesday night and Thursday afternoon. UTPD officials placed the estimated loss value of the items around $65. 

Erin Burgy, regional communications director for the circus, said she did not have any information on why the hats and uniform were stolen or how often thefts typically occur at the circus.

Funding 40 Acres

Editor’s Note: This is the final installation in a four-part series examining the sources of UT’s funding. The University’s self-funding enterprises, research money and University land income make up approximately half the University’s $2.2 billion overall operating budget for fiscal year 2011, while less than half comes from tuition, state allocations and gifts. Auxiliary enterprises include Intercollegiate Athletics, the Division of Housing and Food Service and the Frank Erwin Center. UT budget director Mary Knight said the University’s auxiliaries, especially athletics, have increased consistently for the past five to 10 years. She said the other sources’ ties to the economy have made them less predictable over the same time period. Auxiliaries’ budgets, which are completely self-funded, have made up between 11 and 12 percent of the overall budget since 2000, while the budget has increased from $1.1 billion to $2.2 billion. Knight said while auxiliaries do not receive state money or tuition, they pay 3.25 percent of their income into the University’s academic budget. She said this fee pays for human resources, budget staff and other services University offices provide for the auxiliaries. “We also retain the interest they have on their accounts, which amounts to between 5 and 6 percent total,” Knight said. “Athletics pays that, too.” John Graham, associate athletics director for the Erwin Center, said the center’s income comes mostly from ticket sales, concessions and advertisements within the facility. He said any surplus revenues from year to year stay within the center as reserves for down years or fund infrastructure improvements. He said these surpluses fund work to improve energy usage currently under way on the center. Graham said the separation of funding allows auxiliaries to serve the University’s nonacademic needs. University Lands, which is within the UT System and is located in Midland, manages the leases of 2.1 million acres of Texas land, called the Permanent University Fund, designated to help fund UT and Texas A&M. A nonprofit investment firm created by the UT System invests income from leases. Two-thirds of the investment income, called the Available University Fund, goes to the UT System and the other third goes to the A&M System. For 2011, UT Austin received $166 million from the fund. This makes up just more than 7.5 percent of the overall budget. Stephen Hartmann, executive director of University Lands, said all of the University Lands are leased for at least one purpose. He said while oil and gas leases generate the most money, thousands of miles of easements for gas and fiber-optic lines, agricultural spaces, wind farms, businesses including gas stations and hotels and a winery that produces the Sainte Genevieve and Peregrine Hill wine labels are all on University Lands. “We subscribe to a multiple-use policy,” Hartmann said. “That’s what we do; we try to make a nickel however we can.” He said the office has recently seen interest in alternative energy projects other than wind, including several solar projects and biofuel production. He said these alternative lease uses can ensure the land remains profitable for the University. “We know oil and gas are depletable resources,” Hartmann said. “We try to be good stewards because we know the land is always going to be there.”