The Overture Center faces an uncertain future as Mayor Paul Soglin’s 2013 executive operating budget proposes cuts equaling nearly $1 million from the center’s funding.
Soglin’s spokesperson Katie Crawley said Soglin’s budget proposal recommends allocating $850,000 to the Overture Center, which is a reduction from the $1.8 million annual allocation the center received from the city in 2012. The proposed budget cuts come after years of budget disagreements between the center and the city.
According to Overture Center spokesperson Robert Chappell, the funding cut came as a surprise to the Overture Center. He added the center has not yet identified what the Overture will cut if the budget proposal goes through.
He said the center may offset the funding shortage by serving fewer people with educational programs. The Overture could also make up for the shortfall by booking higher-priced acts, which would compete with other venues in Madison.
“We don’t want to do that,” Chappell said. “We don’t want to enter into a place where we are competitive with other theaters in town. That would be an unfortunate situation.”
Crawley said Soglin has focused the budget on services to residents including additional allocations to the Madison Police Department to maintain a police, fire and safety focus on neighborhoods with special issues, such as the downtown area.
The mayor expects more than one alder will submit an amendment to the City Council to increase the Overture’s subsidy, Crawley said. There is money that has not yet been allocated within the budget, and city officials will have the opportunity to debate where that money will go.
Crawley said the Overture Center also receives financing through ticket sales, fundraising events and may also receive some expenditures from Dane County for 2013.
Chappell said the Overture may receive $5,000 from the county through County Executive Joe Parisi’s 2013 budget proposal. The money would go toward a community ticket voucher program, he said.
The Overture has never received county money before, and whether it receives the $5,000 is unconfirmed at this point, he said. The Overture is not expecting the money from the county and will not draw up its budget with the funding in mind.
Although the Overture draws people from a large area, Crawley said other communities do not pay to support it.
Chappell argued that more than half of the Overture’s audience does not live in Madison, and the entire county benefits from the center.
As of now, no final decision has been made on how much funding the Overture will receive from the city.
Chappell said Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, and City Council President Shiva Bidar-Sielaff, District 5, have both voiced their support to introduce amendments to allocate more funding to the Overture Center.
Verveer, who also serves on the Overture’s Board of Directors, said several alders will offer an amendment to restore the Overture Center’s funding. He noted that the Overture has already passed a budget based on receiving $2 million.
“I know how tight our budget is,” Verveer said. “This is a tremendous burden for us that could result in some significant cuts at the Overture Center.”
Verveer said he does not know how much of the Overture Center’s funding the City Council will amend to restore, but said the proposed funding cuts are indefensible.
Amendments to Soglin’s proposed budget are due to the Board of Estimates by Oct. 19.