Mayor: ESO needs to spell out what it wants
By Janelle Walker For The Courier-News January 17, 2013 5:48PM
The Elgin Symphony Orchestra during a 2011 performance at the Hemmens Cultural Center in Elgin, the same year the city stopped giving the ESO financial support. | Sun-Times Media~File Photo
Updated: February 19, 2013 3:01PM
ELGIN — Mayor David Kaptain says he expects to find out on Wednesday exactly what the Elgin Symphony Orchestra is asking from the city.
“We are looking for a final (dollar amount) number, and we are getting mixed signals from them,” Kaptain said of the ESO board this week.
In August, ESO interim Chief Executive Officer David Bearden asked the city for $154,000 in funding. That request followed previous meetings with ESO leadership, Kaptain said.
“I started to meet with them about a year ago to get a final number from them … and got mixed signals for almost a year of what they need,” Kaptain said.
At one point, Kaptain said, he was told the ESO would not be seeking city funding.
Bearden told The Courier-News in a November interview that the ESO’s budget has been cut by $500,000, mostly in front-office positions.
Kaptain said this week that it is his understanding the ESO will be seeking more funding than asked for in August.
According to documents given to him, Kaptain said, the ESO has a cash-flow problem and is short by $400,000 for the first 60 days of its 2012-13 budget.
The city, however, believes that cash flow problem is more in the range of $600,000 to $700,000, Kaptain said.
“We need to have a final number here,” Kaptain said.
There was an agreement at one point where the symphony would begin paying for its use of the city-owned Hemmens Cultural Center and — about $50,000 for the current concert season, Kaptain said.
“If we can collect the rent from you … for January, we will send you a bill, you pay us the rent, it will stop the bleeding, and you can go forward with no costs” for the current year, Kaptain said.
The city has told the ESO board and Bearden that it must set up a payment plan for a $215,000 back rental bill at the Hemmens.
“We can’t forgive the rent, but that is up to the council to decide,” Kaptain said.
The ESO has disputed that outstanding rent amount, saying it believes the bill is more in the $185,000 range.
“The point is, they don’t have it anyway,” Kaptain said.
The $50,000 figure for current and future performances was “our estimate based on concert and usage. That was our guesstimate at that time. That fell through with them — it would have bought them the time to go back to the union and finish the season,” he added.
The city asked the ESO board to present its funding needs at the Jan. 23 council meeting, Kaptain said. “The whole purpose is that we would like to get a final number, their financials, and go on the record with it.”
Council members will not take any action on whatever request is made at that meeting, said City Manager Sean Stegall. “It is just a presentation.”
Any vote is set for later this winter, possibly in February, Stegall said.
Bearden declined to respond to questions about what the ESO would be asking for on Wednesday.
“I am working on our presentation to the city council and feel it would be inappropriate for me to give the presentation to anyone else before that meeting,” he replied in an email.