Struggling Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra slashes budget

Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:40 am

As it struggles to remain financially viable, the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra announced today a restructuring plan that includes reducing the orchestra by 11 percent, cutting its operating budget and reducing nearly 20 percent of its administrative staff.

The plan, which the MSO has deemed a “survival plan,” aims to help the MSO regain its footing as it faces possible extinction, largely due to a $2 million deficit from the organization’s 2013 fiscal year. 

The deficit resulted from a combination of financial struggles including donor fatigue, cost-cutting that hurt earned revenue, and continued impact from the Great Recession.

In addition to reducing full-time musicians to save $1.2 million, the new plan will also change employees’ benefits packages to save a total $225,000.

In an attempt to boost earned income, the MSO’s schedule will include five additional performances in the coming season at the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. 

Other changes include eliminating administrative staff members’ pensions, 401(k) match and parking as well as mandating pay cuts and furloughs.

At the same time, the MSO is pleading for financial help from the Greater Milwaukee community. If the MSO does not receive additional pledges to fund help fund its business plan for the future, it could fold.

“This is a critical opportunity to save what decades of effort and investment have created – a fabulous orchestra at a reasonable cost,” said Douglas Hagerman, chairman of the MSO board. “We can save the MSO, and we have a plan to do that, but we need a community-wide team effort to support this priceless community asset and ensure it doesn’t become insolvent. Following the lead set by our musicians and other partners, we need everyone to participate in order to avert a tragic loss for the cultural life of our city and our region.”

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