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Overture funding up, but less than requested

Madison city alders plan to push for more city support in next budget

MADISON, Wis. - 22301816

After years of debate about funding, the Overture Center will receive $1.45 million of city funding if Mayor Paul Soglin's budget is approved as is.

While it's more than what has been offered in the past couple of budget cycles, Overture spokesman Robert Chappell said it's still $300,000 less than what the center requested. At the same time, he was encouraged by the increase.

"We recognize realities that everyone, every municipality's budget is very tight, so we are working with a lower budget just like every city department," Chappell said.

Chappell said the city agreed to pay Overture $2 million a year when the center was privatized in 2010. That amount, Chappell said, was also supposed to be adjusted for inflation.

Chappell couldn't say for sure what programs could be cut if the city didn't fulfill the entire request of $1.75 million in the 2014 budget. He said Overture does have a number of funding sources, including ticket sales, rentals and donations. However, the city subsidy primarily supports the free and reduced-price programs the center runs and those would be the first to go if there wasn't enough money to work with, Chappell said.

"I feel it would be a tragedy if the only people who could have that experience are people who could afford an $85 ticket," Chappell said.

Chappell hoped that if any cuts had to be made, Overture could find a way to accommodate internally without the public noticing a reduction in performances or programs.

Alder Mark Clear said the council has about $300,000 to work with in the upcoming budget, the difference between the total spending pitched by the mayor and what is allowed to be spent under the state levy limits. He doesn't expect Overture to get all of that money, but said it is possible for the center to get some additional funding as the budget is adjusted.

"I think there's definitely some interest in restoring some of that," Clear said. "I'm not sure if we'll be able to restore all of it."

Clear said overall, it is nice to see the city and Overture strike a reasonable compromise.

"They are happy not to have an epic battle this year, and I am too," Clear explained. "Those battles have been extremely unproductive. They're bad for the city. They're bad for Overture. They're bad for its ability to do private fundraising.

"And so I'm glad to see that we're much closer in terms of what Overture needs and where the city's funding is, at least to start with."

The city's Board of Estimates is scheduled to take up the budget Monday and Tuesday before alders make their changes.

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