Indianapolis Symphony's deficit nears record

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The Indiana Symphony Society on Monday reported a near-record deficit of $2.7 million on its $25.8 million budget for the 2010 fiscal year.

And symphony CEO Simon Crookall said this won't be the end of the bleeding.

"We're now foreseeing deficits for the next three years while we turn the business model around," Crookall said.

The society, the parent organization of the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, reported a record budget gap of $2.8 million in November 2009. At the time, Crookall hoped to narrow the gap this year to $1.3 million.

One reason that didn't happen, Crookall said, is the symphony decided to reduce its draw from the ISO Foundation, which has suffered massive losses as the economy faltered. At the end of the fiscal year Aug. 31, the endowment was worth $83.5 million—down from a high of $128 million in 2007. The foundation gave ISO $8.1 million in 2010, 17 percent less than the previous year.

The ISO is counting on a $100 million capital campaign to help rebuild that endowment.

Narrowing the budget deficit also would have required increasing ticket sales and donations. Instead, those sources of revenue were flat.

"We did well, I think, to maintain it," Crookall said.

The ISO reduced its expenses in the 2010 fiscal year $2.5 million. A year ago, the musicians agreed to pay cuts that will save the ISO $4 million over the life of a three-year contract. The pay cut is 12 percent in the first year, but 10.5 percent will be restored by 2012. Crookall and administrative staff also took pay cuts.

While a task force continues to look at cost-cutting, Crookall said the symphony also is focused on increasing revenue, either by rescheduling concerts to allow for a more lucrative outcome or by offering its administrative and artistic services to other organizations.

In June 2011, the ISO will perform an additional two concerts at the Palladium in Carmel. Crookall said the ISO won't move a significant number of performances to Carmel in the future, though.

"We'll continue to be based in Indianapolis," he said.


  • Parking
    Parking for the Symphony is $3.00 yep, thats right....3 dollars...
  • Ballard costs the Symphony its success
    Ballard and his cronies who what parking downtown in lots to be $35.00 for the evening is hurting the Arts in downtown. It has even caused the Carmelites to build thier own arts center so they are not held ransom by Ballard and the GOP mafia. With no more parking free after 6 pm, and massive increases on the parking meter sites, we should see more go by the way in downtown as eating, entertainment, arts, and shopping become out of reach for most citizens
    • Hmmm ... again
      "Members of the board who caught on were told to shut up about this or leave..."

      If the CEO's actions were really injurious to the ISO, you are saying that the remaining members of the board want the ISO to fail. Otherwise, they wouldn't have said "shut up". Frankly, this doesn't seem plausible. In any event, NONE of us here knows the ins and outs of actually managing the ISO. I tend to trust the board more than posters here.
    • Spend Spend Spend
      Sounds like the same allegations that have kept Max Anderson and the Indianapolis Museum of Art in the news
    • Not too many
      There really aren't that many full time paid symphonies in the USA any more; I'm pretty sure that it is less than twenty. Such are the times in which we live.
    • San Francisco Symphony
      As of December 2009, the value of the San Francisco Symphonyâ??s endowment stands at over $215 million.Each year the Symphonyâ??s endowment provides approximately 15% to 20% of the Symphonyâ??s operating budget.  Ticket income accounts for approximately 40% of the budget. That means that each year the Symphony must generate the balance of its operating budget through fundraising from public and private sources.
    • San Francisco Symphony
      The primary investment objective of the Symphonyâ??s Endowment Fund is to earn an average annual inflation-adjusted return of at least 6% net of all investment management fees over the long term. These financial objectives are intended to balance the needs of current and future generations of beneficiaries of the Symphonyâ??s Endowment Fund. The Symphonyâ??s Endowment Fund assets are highly diversified to maximize returns and reduce risk.
    • Hmmm
      My impression of the ISO has been that it has fared better in financial terms the past couple of years than almost any other major orchestra in the country. Am I wrong? Suddenly having empty seats might be due to another reason -- something like less disposable income in a recession, perhaps. It seems to me that you can't slash a budget of a major orchestra to the level that is desired in one or two years -- if you intend to remain a major orchestra, at least. Prudent budgeting is done with a long-term view. Whether prudence is being done will only be known in 4-5 years.

      My other impression is that the ISO - finally - has tried to lure the next generation of attendees. For a generation of people not exposed in the schools to "the classics", merely announcing "Bach is playing tonight" is not going to bring them in. These people need to be lured to the idea of the music in the first place. One does this by offering "approachable" music first in the hope that these new folks will eventually also come to appreciate what we also love.

      We all love our ISO and we are frustrated when unpleasantness occurs. But before attacking the people who are dealing with it on a daily basis with vague epithets ("bloated administration", etc.), consider thinking of and providing constructive specific suggestions. Where is the administration bloated? Whose job, specifically, can be taken over by another position at the same time?

      Let's all take a deep breath first.
    • Crookall=All Crook
      Simon needs to go! His lack of focus on his own company this year along with his lack of financial skill are coming back to bite him. I agree with the above, he's blowing smoke with the $100MM capital campaign. He can be trusted!!!
    • Its unsustainable. You have to cut spending.
      The spending is unsustainable. An endowment worth $83.5 million dollars isn't earning enough in interest and dividends to cover the $8.1 million dollars that Mr. Crookall has drawn out. He's pulled out nearly 10% of the principal in a single year. Its unsustainable. And not generally the way an endowment is supposed to run. Ideally, it should exist in perpetuity; draws should be from interest and dividends, allowing principal to, perhaps grow in size. If Mr. Crookall remains on this course the endowment will be exhausted in 10 years. The answer, of course, is to cut spending. The Symphony reported a deficit of $2.7 million dollars on its $25.8 million dollar budget. And this budget includes that $8.1 million dollar draw. So really, the next budget should be $25.8 million, less $8.1 million, less $2.7 million. That figure is $15 million. Its all good and well to put out a press release about a mythical $100 million capital campaign to rebuild the endowment, but lets get practical. Rosy projections don't pay the bills. Do not devastate the endowment. Using it for bloated operating revenue is shortsighted. Someone needs to take a very sharp pencil to expenses. 2011 fiscal year budget for the ISO is $15 million. Mr. Crookall just wants to spend beyond his current means.
      • ISO Reorg Needed
        It is time for the ISO to do a major reorganization. First move is to remove Mr Crookall. His handling of Venzago clearly illustrated his flawed management style. This season was a low point both artistically and financally the ISO has had in many years. With him at the helm the ISO music director position was nearly impossible to fill with a quality conductor - who wants to come to Indianapolis and receive the kind of treatment Venzago received? It is sad to see the Hilbert theatre nearly empty. They may have to cut back and go part time and focus on some quality classic programs.
      • Better than
        The ISO news is better than Louisville whose orchestra just declared bankruptcy and will probably have to fold its tent.

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      1. I never thought I'd see the day when a Republican Mayor would lead the charge in attempting to raise every tax we have to pay. Now it's income taxes and property taxes that Ballard wants to increase. And to pay for a pre-K program? Many studies have shown that pre-K offer no long-term educational benefits whatsoever. And Ballard is pitching it as a way of fighting crime? Who is he kidding? It's about government provided day care. It's a shame that we elected a Republican who has turned out to be a huge big spending, big taxing, big borrowing liberal Democrat.

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