The amendment to give $900,000 back to the Overture Center after the initial proposed budget cut its funding by $1 million failed at the Board of Estimates Monday night.
The restoration of money to make up for the initial proposed cuts would be funded by borrowing $400,000 of the remaining 2012 premium and reducing $500,000 of the city’s funding that would have been utilized to build a new roof at Olbrich Garden.
Ald. Mike Verveer, District 4, said the City of Madison made a commitment to the establishment in 2010 that would grant them $2 million of public funding each year. He said the proposed budget cuts fall short of the city’s obligation to the Overture Center, which brings many people to Madison.
“I know people who have time and time again said their motivation to live downtown is because of the Overture Center,” Verveer said.
Verveer said the center has exceeded the city’s expectations with regard to the amount of money it has raised through fundraising to make up for the decline in the amount of funding it receives each year.
Development Director at the Overture Center Jill Pfeiffer said the Overture Center’s relationship with the City of Madison is a private/public agreement, and the center relies on funds from the city, despite raising $2.4 million through private donations and fundraising.
Pfeiffer said the proposed cuts would be devastating for both workers and citizens, resulting in job layoffs and the elimination of community events regarding education, entertainment and the arts.
Ald. Brian Solomon, District 10, said the City of Madison should not have made a long-term commitment to the Overture Center. He said the budget each year requires money to be allocated differently and a consistent amount should not be set.
“Each year we have to make difficult choices,” Solomon said. “This isn’t a statement against the importance of the Overture Center, but rather a decision we just have to make.”
Ald. Shiva Bidar-Sielaff, District 5, said the Overture Center offers children in Madison, particularly those of low-income families, the chance to participate in downtown activities they otherwise could not afford.
Bidar-Sielaff added restoring funds to the Overture Center is part of the council’s responsibility to provide social justice to people of all socioeconomic statuses and backgrounds in Madison.
Ervin Gomez, an 8th grader in Madison, spoke at the meeting and said each year his school attends plays at the Overture Center that deal with history and different cultures, helping him learn.
“We’ve learned about native American culture and Chinese culture,” Gomez said. “It’s important because it shows kids things about different cultures and around the world.”
Mayor Paul Soglin said he believes the Overture Center is one of the most important establishments in Madison and stressed the proposed cut in funding was not meant to diminish its importance.
Soglin said the initial commitment made between the City of Madison and the Overture Center that allocated $2 million of funding each year was not legally binding. He said he refused to support an amendment that would rely on borrowed money to make up for the cuts.
Madison’s City Council will reconvene Nov. 8 to further discuss an amendment in an effort to restore funds to the Overture Center.