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With funding growing scarce, pride celebration feeling over the hill

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The nonprofit San Francisco Pride still owes $160,000 for throwing the 40th annual Pride Parade last year, but it is relying on new faces and fundraisers to pull it through the 41st.

So far it has secured all the same major sponsors as last year and raised $400,000 for the events with two months left to go. Newly hired Executive Director Brendan Behan said the group is also initiating new fees — such as charging for official Pride events to be advertised on the website — and coming up with new fundraising opportunities.

“The parade was never questioned,” Behan said. “There are still problems ... but it’s going to be a good year.”

The celebration — the biggest in the nation — draws hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world and turns The City into a swirl of rainbow flags and feathers for the better part of June.

But a city controller’s report revealed in December that SF Pride owed $380,000 for cleanup, beverage arrangements and other tasks for the “It’s fabulous to be 40” festivities. The report was requested by then-Supervisor Bevan Dufty and Supervisor David Campos.

The problems have been attributed to a voluntary board that was not particularly number-savvy or was not keeping a close eye on the finances, as well as employee problems that SF Pride’s outside general counsel said she could not discuss.

Since then, several SF Pride board members have resigned and three new faces have appeared. The executive director resigned, and the board hired Behan. So far, the debt has been whittled down to $160,000.

“This financial turnaround happened in one year,” lawyer Brooke Oliver said. “They had a bad stretch, but the future of SF Pride is bright.”

This year’s theme is “In Pride We Trust,” which Behan said may be inopportune because “it’s not that we can’t rebuild the trust.” But he said it was suggested by a longtime volunteer from Texas and won a series of votes in September over “It Ain’t No Tea Party,” “Justice For All,” “Liberty, Equality, Fabulosity,” and a few others.

Supervisor Scott Wiener, whose district includes the Castro, said he is 100 percent confident the parade will continue, but structural changes need to be considered, as outlined in the controller’s report.

“I think some progress has been made in terms of reducing the debt but there’s a lot more work to be done,” Wiener said.

This year’s SF Pride will take place June 25 and 26, with the parade scheduled for Sunday, June 26 at 10:30 a.m.

kkelkar@sfexaminer.com