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Symphony-Opera has good start on financial recovery

Published July 7, 2005 12:38 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2005, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The Utah Symphony & Opera is on track to implement its financial recovery plan, a new report shows.

The organization had achieved 90 percent of its fundraising goals as of June 6 and ticket sales as of May 31 exceeded goals by $128,000, according to the report, which emerged from a task force set up by the US&O board to ensure recovery from operating deficits that followed the 2002 merger of Utah Symphony and Utah Opera.

The board hired consultant Thomas W. Morris to examine US&O finances; his recommendations led to the financial recovery plan adopted by the US&O board earlier this year.

"I've been really pleased" with the process, said bassoonist Christine Osborne, the musicians' representative on the task force. "Everybody is asking hard questions and working hard together. I'm just really thrilled with the people that are on the committee and the dedication and commitment that I'm seeing to the success of the organization."

The report noted that even though fundraising goals have not been met, the amount raised as of June 6 is $400,000 ahead of the same time last year. The $575,000 that still must be raised by Aug. 31 is "within the range of historical giving patterns for the months of June, July and August."

Task force members also say renewed marketing and development efforts may enable US&O to maintain strong ticket sales and meet or exceed revenue goals by the Aug. 31 deadline.

The recovery plan calls for cost cutting, including possible personnel cuts, if revenue projections are not met. But "although there is no guarantee revenues will stay on the current track, the executive committee has approved delaying any cuts at this time, to ensure ticket sales and marketing initiatives remain on track," the report said.

It noted US&O has made progress toward its goals by obtaining personal financial support from board members to the tune of $458,000, just $25,000 short of the goal. It has been able to settle a musicians' contract, and has hired consultants to help make the board more effective and to help develop a business plan for the Deer Valley Music Festival.

The report also noted several shortcomings that must be addressed immediately for the organization to remain on track.

US&O, it says, must secure full funding to provide consultants necessary to complete the recommendations. Consultants hired so far are being paid through a one-time $50,000 grant from the Questar Foundation, but more funding is needed.

The task force also notes the organization has not completed a job description and performance expectations for Chief Executive Anne Ewers, and has not yet hired a development consultant.

"These are behind schedule and must be accomplished immediately to avoid derailing parts of the plan," according to the report.

The task force will continue to monitor US&O's progress, and anticipates releasing its next report in October.