Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra faces some grim music
Facing its "most difficult financial year in decades," the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra is proposing a budget with an $876,000 deficit next year -- its third consecutive year in the red.
The orchestra foresees fiscal year 2011 as the most problematic in decades because of less money from public sources and a reduced endowment draw as a result of the weak economy, wrote symphony President Lawrence J. Tamburri in his application to the Allegheny Regional Asset District for sales tax proceeds.
"These difficulties will challenge the institution to maintain its position as Pittsburgh's leading performing arts institution, a cultural ambassador for the region, a proven economic development tool, and an asset to the community," Tamburri said.
The finance committee of the symphony's board proposed a budget of nearly $31.7 million against revenue of more than $30.8 million. The full board is expected to adopt the budget next month, Tamburri wrote.
In an interview Monday, board Chairman Richard P. Simmons said the state cut its funding from $2.5 million a year to probably $750,000 and RAD cuts its allocation from $1 million to $900,000.
"Put all of these factors together, and the symphony has a significant challenge ahead of it," Simmons said. "However, having said that, one way or another, we'll find a way to get through this period."
The budget includes the symphony's request of $1.25 million from RAD for education and community outreach, performances at Heinz Hall and upkeep of that facility. That's $350,000 or 39 percent more than its current grant, and the district is experiencing its own financial issues.
RAD supports libraries, parks, stadiums and cultural groups such as the symphony with half of the proceeds from an additional 1 percent sales tax in Allegheny County. The other half goes to the county and municipalities. Last year, sales tax collections lagged because of the recession, although they began to bounce back in recent months.
RAD likely will hold a hearing on the symphony's request at the end of August, said David Donahoe, executive director of the district. He declined comment on the symphony's financial woes, saying he had not read its application.
Symphony officials expect a deficit of $2 million in 2010 and no improvement until 2011-12. The group's fundraising campaign, Commitment to Excellence, helped keep it afloat during the economic downturn.
To date, the symphony raised $59 million and is on pace to surpass its original $80 million goal, Tamburri wrote.
Simmons, 79, of Sewickley Heights, the retired CEO of Downtown-based Allegheny Technologies Inc., pledged up to $30 million. The symphony will get more than half of Simmons' gift -- $17.5 million -- after his death, but only if it balances its budget three years in a row.
Simmons emphasized that the orchestra's financial blues have not affected the quality of its performances.
Playing last weekend at the Lanaudiere Music Festival near Montreal, the symphony received a standing ovation and played three encores, he said.
Ken McCrory, a principal in McCrory & McDowell, a Downtown accounting firm, recommended using the principal of the endowment - a move that would require approval not only of the group's board but also the state - to erase the deficit.
"I know that's heresy for many arts boards, but it's not heresy to me," he said. "Special circumstances require special actions. If you need to draw down principal to maintain the integrity of the organization, then that's what you have to do."
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- If ‘evil’ doesn’t apply to ISIS, what does?
- Unlike years past, strength of 2014 Steelers could be offense
- Ford City explores beefing up code enforcement
- RX Fit brings cross-training to Ford City
- Steelers Lookahead: Previewing Sunday’s game vs. Cleveland
- Wedding aboard Pittsburgh’s Gateway Clipper ends in arrests
- New Dayton food pantry sees more people each week
- Steelers notebook: Polamalu made 1st-time captain; Roethlisberger named for offense
- Western Pa. districts aim to win back students from cyber charters
- Housing market remains ‘disaster’ in Westmoreland County
- Campus visit sells 4-star Ohio recruit Hall on Panthers