Overture looks for ways to fund budget with less city help - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Overture looks for ways to fund budget with less city help

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MADISON (WKOW) -- The Overture Center won't get extra funding from the city, despite pleas from the public and city alders.

It was a full house Monday night, as the Madison Board of Estimates struck down a budget amendment to give an extra $900-thousand to the Overture Center. At least a dozen people, including children who have taken part in some of Overture's free programs, spoke in favor of the amendment.

The proposal needed four votes to pass, and only got three.

"Everyone acknowledged the value of Overture, the value of arts in the community, and then it came down to the question of whether or not the city could afford it," says Mayor Paul Soglin.

Soglin was against the idea from the beginning, because it used borrowed money to cover costs. He says that is irresponsible budgeting.

Overture's president Ted DeDee wants the city to live up to a 2010 agreement to provide $2 million every year. Soglin will only commit $850-thousand as part of the 2013 city Operating Budget. 

Overture has raised $2 million in private donations but DeDee believes without more city funding, they can't cover an $18 million dollar budget.

DeDee says Overture won't ask donors for more money because it's not fair to them. He expects to have to make cuts to some of the 14 free programs, including children's programming.

"All [programs that are] designed to further engage people and students in the community, that otherwise wouldn't have an opportunity to have an exposure to the arts at all," says DeDee.

Mayor Soglin suggested looking at salaries of upper level management positions within Overture to find the money.

"Some internal salary cuts, along with raising more private money and a modest contribution from the city and Overture will make it through," says Soglin.

DeDee says they'll look at salaries, and also consider cuts to building maintenance costs.

"I would say everything is worth considering," says DeDee. "Salaries, wherever it might be in the organization, is something that we would have to look at again, if the cuts were as drastic as he proposed."

It's still likely though that an alder will re-introduce the amendment, or a similar one, at the city council's next meeting on October 30th. Mayor Soglin expects that to happen, and says it's in the council's hands to find room in the budget without borrowing money.

Overture's board met Tuesday night to discuss their options.

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