Opera lays off 3 work­ers, cites de­clin­ing do­na­tions

Austin American-Statesman - - METRO & STATE - By Jeanne Claire van Ryzin AMER­I­CAN-STATES­MAN STAFF jvan­ryzin@states­man.com; 445-3699

The Austin Lyric Opera, cit­ing a con­tin­u­ing down­turn in in­di­vid­ual and cor­po­rate do­na­tions, has laid off three staff mem­bers.

Gen­eral Di­rec­tor Kevin Pat­ter­son said one half-time and two full-time po­si­tions were elim­i­nated in an ef­fort to bring the or­ga­ni­za­tion’s bud­get to $4.3 mil­lion as it heads into its new fis­cal year.

That’s down from $4.5 mil­lion in the most re­cent fis­cal year, or a 4 per­cent de­crease. Af­ter the lay­offs, the opera will have 22 staff mem­bers.

The elim­i­nated po­si­tions are in devel­op­ment, mar­ket­ing and the box of­fice.

“This was an ex­tremely dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion to make, and we ex­am­ined ev­ery an­gle to see if there was any way around mak­ing any of these cuts, but un­for­tu­nately there was not,” Pat­ter­son said.

Pat­ter­son said the opera board voted to adopt the new $4.3 mil­lion bud­get in May.

“We’ve seen some im­prove­ment in con­tri­bu­tions from in­di­vid­u­als and cor­po­ra­tions since (the down­turn in 2008), but we haven’t seen a full re­cov­ery,” Pat­ter­son said.

Char­i­ta­ble do­na­tions to the arts are down across the nation, a June re­port by the Giv­ing USA Foun­da­tion shows. Phil­an­thropic con­tri­bu­tions fell 2.4 per­cent in 2009. In 2008, giv­ing to the arts dropped 6.4 per­cent, the re­port shows.

In Austin, the opera isn’t the only in­sti­tu­tion that has had to make cuts. Last year, the Austin Mu­seum of Art cuts its bud­get 10 per­cent.

Pat­ter­son said the elim­i­nated po­si­tions will not af­fect artis­tic or ed­u­ca­tional pro­grams. The opera will con­tinue with its 2010-11 sea­son as planned.

“We’re still in a process of tight­en­ing the bud­get, but we don’t want to sac­ri­fice our artis­tic of­fer­ings,” he said.

Last year, the opera cut its bud­get to $4.5 mil­lion from $5 mil­lion in re­sponse to de­clin­ing do­na­tions and ticket sales. The or­ga­ni­za­tion car­ries a $600,000 deficit, Pat­ter­son said.

Pat­ter­son also noted that ticket sales have not re­turned to pre-2008 lev­els.

“It’s very much a buyer’s mar­ket right now in Austin in terms of en­ter­tain­ment, and there’s just less dis­pos­able in­come in peo­ple’s pock­ets,” he said.

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