Black Rock City’s accounting office operates year-round. All the little fiscal details of our fair city flow through that one spot. If it has a dollar sign, it will at some point come across the accounting desk. We process payables every week, and often more frequently, to ensure that bills are paid on time. We manage the bank accounts and credit cards in order to guarantee that funds are available when needed. We process payroll and collaborate with others to perform human resource functions that benefit the Project’s work. We tend to all required tax filings with federal, state, and local agencies. In the past year, we have sought new and more beneficial insurance and banking contacts and fostered the existing relationships so that now more than ever, Black Rock City is fit to carry out its mission.
The Accounting Department staff has also undergone some changes. This past year has seen an increase in the amount of financial activity as well as a continued emphasis on document retention and organization. To support these goals, we have hired one full-time bean counter and contracted with another part-timer who comes in once a week to help keep our noses above the waterline. This crew is a change from our previous arrangement of two part-time contracted bean counters. Our grumpy finance manager heads up the department, setting the work pace by beating on a drum and issuing priorities at the end of a whip. Rounding out the crew is our CPA, who can sometimes be found sailing across the desert on his magic party carpet.
Located at the entrance to Black Rock City, the Box Office is managed by the Finance Department and staffed by a select crew. Most of them return every year from such far-flung places as Santa Cruz and Oakland, California; Columbus, Ohio; Winnemucca, Nevada; Olympia, Washington; and Newport News, Virginia, plus a special emissary from England. In addition to their work for the Box Office, they were also involved with more than one theme camp and volunteered with other groups.
The Box Office is one of the first places that many participants visit before proceeding into Black Rock City proper. We recognize this unique role and truly enjoy our opportunity to interact with the citizenry. Every person brings a story of how many times their car broke down getting there or how excited they are to see the playa after a year away. They tell us about road and traffic conditions and jobs they have quit in order to come. People also bring us many gifts, and we offer sincere thanks. As we work to help a line of hundreds or toil through the wee hours of the morning, your gifts and your love make our time on the playa that much more special to us.
Every year the Box Office delivers over 5,000 will call tickets and sells ever more tickets to last-minute planners. In order to improve our preparation for the multitude of unique problems that arise, last year we held early meetings in the San Francisco office to discuss the challenges of the previous year and develop strategies for dealing with those and other potential problems. We talked over everything from lost and forgotten tickets to how to cope when our carefully laid plans and procedures go haywire. Members stepped into roles that had been left vacant by departing members and volunteered more of their resources to realize our shared goal of a more efficient Box Office. Shift leads were also oriented with the Burning Man Operations Manual and radio protocols. In turn, they passed on these guidelines to their shift members.
However, despite the advance planning and the Herculean efforts of the crew, we encountered some pretty cumbersome technical difficulties that led to longer lines and longer wait times than we would like. This experience has motivated us to reinvent our Box Office operations. We struggled with technical problems such as an unreliable credit card machine connection in the system that had been in place for the previous 5 years. We have put together a comprehensive plan using alternative communication methods and technologies, and we are confident that the new system will remedy the situation. To accommodate our new set-up, we are in the process of customizing a new Box Office building. Not too surprisingly, we’ve found a great deal of know-how and support within our own community. Thank You! And so, we’ll be working throughout the year on this and other projects to make our corner of the playa run even better. We look forward to seeing you in 2004.
Tim Foster aka Mean Bean and Thorny