ISO sees record ticket sales, but misses budget projections

The Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra enjoyed several milestones during the the 2015-16 season, but a pair of unforeseen circumstances prevented its parent organization from meeting budget projections.

The not-for-profit Indiana Symphony Society, which oversees the ISO, announced Monday that it suffered a deficit of $561,000 in the fiscal year ended Aug. 31. The society said the shortfall was “due largely to a 78 percent increase in medical claims expense and inclement weather during the Marsh Symphony on the Prairie season, two factors out of its control.”

The society said it experienced an $854,000 increase in medical claims over the previous year.

The deficit was the first after three straight budget increases for the society. It operated in the red for five consecutive years before reporting the 2012-13 surplus.

Meanwhile, the ISO experienced record ticket sales, as well as increases in fundraising and subscription revenue.

Total ticket sales rose 15 percent over the previous year, to $8.49 million, marking the fourth straight year of increases.

The 35-year-old Symphony on the Prairie Symphony series drew a record 111,000-plus attendees and experienced an all-time high in revenue, but that revenue mark fell short of budget expectations when 11 of the 28 performances were affected by inclement weather.  

Annual fundraising hit $9.3 million in the latest fiscal year, an increase from the previous year and the fourth straight year that annual contributions topped $9 million. Not included in the figure was a one-time $10 million grant from Lilly Endowment Inc., which was mostly earmarked to fund the musicians’ defined benefit pension plan.

The ISO drew $5.5 million from the Indiana Symphony Orchestra Foundation, consisting of $4.5 million for operations and $1 million for pension contributions, for a total draw of 6.1 percent, down slightly from the 6.2 percent rate in each of the previous two seasons.

 “As we reflect on the many wonderful accomplishments of the past season, the Board of Directors reaffirms its commitment to achieving our artistic goals while operating the institution in a fiscally responsible manner,” said Vince Caponi, outgoing chairman of the society board, in a written statement.

Among the other highlights from fiscal year 2016:

—Total operating income was $25.25 million, an increase of 6.2 percent over the previous year.

— Total attendance for paid and free community events for the latest year was 275,923 people.

— The ISO sold a record 9,392 student tickets, up 4 percent over the previous year and double the number sold in fiscal year 2013.

— Season subscription ticket sales increased 1 percent over 2015.

— The IPL Yuletide Celebration achieved record sales, with nearly 99 percent paid attendance.

— The society reached a new three-year collective bargaining agreement with the ISO musicians that included a wage increase.

— The society elected Yvonne Shaheen as chairwoman; Michael Becher as vice-chairman and treasurer; and Charlene Barnette as secretary.

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