Indianapolis Symphony’s deficit nears record

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.

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