Pittsburgh Symphony Reduces Budget in Effort to Win Major Funding

To qualify for a $5 million grant from the Pittsburgh-based Heinz Endowments, the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has been working to balance its books by 2015, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.

The orchestra completed its 2012-13 fiscal year at the end of June with a deficit of nearly $1.5 million — roughly half the size of its deficit at the end of the 2011-12 fiscal year. Much of the reduction is the result of a new musicians' contract negotiated, a year ahead of schedule, in June and a $1.2 million gift from local philanthropists Michele and Pat Atkins. Additional progress came from continued annual fund growth, higher ticket sales, successful rentals of Heinz Hall, more state funding, and cost-cutting measures. While the substantial reduction in the deficit is good news, PSO chief financial officer Scott Michael told the Post-Gazette that he and his colleagues were hoping for an even better number but were caught off-guard by an unsuccessful Broadway series that generated lower than expected ticket sales.

To further reduce the deficit, Michael said, PSO will raise some ticket prices in the coming season and is beefing up its marketing efforts. The stakes are high. In addition to the grant from the endowments, the orchestra is in line to receive $12 million from the R.P. Simmons Family Foundation if it balances its books for three consecutive years. "We're on a glide path to balance the budget by [2014-15]," said Michael, who remains optimistic that the orchestra will be able to meet the Simmons Foundation challenge.

Elizabeth Bloom. "Pittsburgh Symphony Slashes Deficit, Hopes for Balanced Budget in 2014-15." Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 08/30/2013.