Overture Center board approves smaller budget - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Overture Center board approves smaller budget

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Madison (WKOW) -- from Overture Center:  The Madison Cultural Arts District Board of Directors, which operates Overture Center for the Arts, approved Thursday a $5.6 million operating budget for the period Jan. 1-June 30, 2009.

  The approved budget includes deep cuts to administrative costs, scaling back some programs and the elimination of 14.8 full-time positions, four of which are currently vacant.

  The budget does not affect resident organizations.

  Layoffs will take effect Jan. 16, 2009.

  Those affected are being notified today.

  Most of the staff affected will have the right to move into other City of Madison jobs.

  The approved budget shows wages and benefits dropping from 43% of total expenses to 39%, still higher than many comparable performing arts centers.

  Without staff cuts, wages and benefits, set by the City of Madison, would have increased 8% from 2008 to 2009.

  The city's subsidy of Overture Center went up 4.3%.

  "Nobody takes these cuts lightly, but this is the reality of the current economy, and it is further exacerbated by the failure of the trust fund," said Overture Center president and CEO Tom Carto. "Businesses, governments, families - we're all being hit hard. But we are firmly committed to preserving our mission of providing the quality of entertainment, arts, education and community engagement that Madison has come to expect. I remain confident that we can navigate this difficult period and come out stronger. Overture Center will be an integral part of the Greater Madison community for a long, long time." 

  Among the program cuts are the cancellation of the Children's Arts Festival, the cancellation of the May 7 performance of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, minor reductions in the number of Kids in the Rotunda, OnStage, Duck Soup Cinema and Overture After Work performances, and other program changes.

  The budget also plans for increasing certain revenue streams, such as more aggressively selling room rentals for private events. 

  Talks are ongoing related to making changes to Overture Center's governance, organizational and financial structures.

  This budget reflects one financial structure change, as Overture Center moves its finances from a fiscal year based on the calendar to a fiscal year based on performance seasons.

  The budget approved today carries through June 2009, and the next will cover July 2009 - June 2010.

  Overture Center leaders recently held two facilitated meetings with stakeholders, including board members, current and former civic leaders, resident organizations and concerned citizens to discuss other potential changes.

  The combined Overture Center boards then met for a full day to develop plans based on those conversations.

  "A number of options are on the table regarding the long term," Carto said. "We're looking at how to hold the line on expenses and increase revenue beyond this budget, well into the future. It is clear that fundamental changes to our governance structure and funding matrix are required for that to happen. That's our next big step."

  Overture Center leadership will host a series of "community conversations" at various places around Dane County through the spring, inviting people to share their thoughts regarding Overture Center's future.

  More information will be available when the meetings are scheduled.

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