LSM Newswire

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Portland Symphony Orchestra Achieves Balanced Budget Following New Music Director's Inaugural Season

Organization successfully meets first benchmark in 3-year plan for sustainability

PORTLAND, Maine After a challenging year that included budget cuts, layoffs and endowment losses, the Portland Symphony Orchestra (PSO) achieved a balanced budget for the fiscal year ending July 31, 2009, bolstered by record attendance at universally acclaimed performances during the inaugural season of Music Director Robert Moody. The first step for Maine's largest performing arts organization on its overall path to fiscal health, ending the year in the black represents a significant milestone, particularly during a period of extraordinary economic adversity.

Preliminary audit results, excluding one-time initiatives, show operating revenues of $2,806,000 and expenses of $2,799,000. The process of reaching the balanced budget required an extensive evaluation of the net impact for all operating activities, followed by the implementation of a mid-year contingency plan which reduced expenses from administration and artistic operations by $150,000.

This represents the first time that the PSO finished the year in the black following nine consecutive years of deficits. During the 2008-2009 fiscal year, the PSO was also successful in paying off its $250,000 line of credit, leaving it with no bank debt. However, the PSO has sustained endowment losses resulting in a still-unhealthy ratio of a $2.5 million endowment to $2.4 million in operating expenses. The organization also needs to build sufficient cash reserves to cover current operations.

"It's been a true collaboration to reach this point," said executive director Ari Solotoff. "Each of the organization's stakeholders musicians, Trustees, and staff rallied behind the urgent need to 'get healthy.' We're certainly not out of the woods yet, but we are very proud to have achieved the first major benchmark in our three-year plan to restore fiscal health."

In March 2009, the Board of Trustees adopted a three-year Sustainability Plan and Bridge Initiative. The Plan is part of the PSO's new approach to producing quality core artistic experiences and education programs, while operating within known financial limitations. Bridge Initiative funding to date includes $704,000 in one-time gifts, grants and pledges, committed over three years, to restore cash reserves and allow the PSO to reinvest in its musicians, with 85% of gifts coming from individual donors.

Both public and private sectors have played a role in the PSO's progress towards sustainability, with diverse funders including corporations such as IDEXX Laboratories and organizations like the Elmina B. Sewall Foundation, Sam L. Cohen Foundation, and the Maine Arts Commission all contributing invaluable support. The PSO increasingly relies on private philanthropy, currently 45% of its operating revenues.

"We want to assure the community that we continue to take steps to preserve this cultural treasure for future generations," said PSO Board President Gordon Gayer. "This is welcome news, and we are grateful to our audiences and funders as we enter our 85th year. The Trustees also recognize that we're only in the first phase of the plan to become financially healthy, and we need the community to help us reach that goal."

Excitement around the inaugural season of Music Director Robert Moody resulted in an increase in both attendance and donations. The season was capped off by a sold-out Endowment Benefit Concert with internationally-renowned soprano Rene Fleming. Attendance at concerts increased over the previous year by 18%to 26,000, while ticket income increased 23% to $1.6 million. The number of donors increased by 8%, with a 5% increase in contributed income totaling $1.2 million.

Solotoff continued, "Last year was difficult for so many individuals and businesses. We were humbled by the response of the community and learned the immense value that orchestral music and live performances can have for people during challenging times. We still have more peaks to climb to make progress towards fiscal health and to invest in our musicians, who consistently perform at such extraordinary levels of artistry."

About the Portland Symphony Orchestra:
Serving the city of Portland, the state of Maine, and northern New England, the Portland Symphony Orchestra (PSO) is the largest performing arts organization in Maine. With critically acclaimed performances and broad community engagement, the PSO is widely regarded as one of the top symphony orchestras of its size in the country. Established in 1923, 2009-10 marks Music Director Robert Moody's second season, and the organization's 85th anniversary season. For more information about the PSO visit www.portlandsymphony.com.

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