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City budget decreases funding for Galesburg’s Orpheum Theatre by $30K

Courtesy photo
Galesburg Orpheum Theatre

The Orpheum Theatre will see a reduction in the funding it typically gets from the city of Galesburg.

That is what’s in the 2024 budget set to be approved at Monday’s council meeting.

The Orpheum’s annual budget is around $500,000 -- and around 20% of the historic theater’s revenue comes from a portion of the city’s hotel motel tax.

“The city funding through the hotel motel tax has been invaluable to us for many, many years,” said Erin Glasnovich, executive director of the Orpheum.

The city approved a contract with Orpheum in the early 2000s that stipulated the theater gets 2% of the hotel motel tax proceeds, with a cap of $100,000 a year.

The funds go toward a variety of expenses at the Orpheum, from salaries for three full-time employees to maintenance to keeping the lights on.

“We have a lot of support throughout the community and the city has been a wonderful partner for us for such a long time," Glasnovich said. "So we hope we can continue to get support in that way. It’s really a community effort to keep a place like the Orpheum doing what it does.”

Creativity and hard thinking
Though the agreement capped the city funds for the Orpheum at $100,000 per year, it’s regularly gone over that through the annual budget process approved by the city council as the tax has generated more money.

Glasnovich said in recent years it’s been in the neighborhood of $130,000 to $140,000 a year.

But the proposed 2024 budget has $100,000 for the Orpheum.

Glasnovich said she only learned about the funding change on Friday.

“When you’re kind of constrained already, it does take a lot of creativity and a lot of real hard thinking about where do we have to cut back now. I’m hopeful that we’re not going to find ourselves in that place, because I do know that the Orpheum means a lot to the community,” she said.

The Orpheum has other sources of revenue.

Grants, donations, tickets, and theater rentals all go toward the annual budget.

“We have wonderful local organizations who partner with the theater by renting the venue to produce their productions,”Glasnovich said.

For instance, over the weekend, Choral Dynamics had their holiday show at the Orpheum.

But losing a chunk of city funding with little notice will be a challenge.

Glasnovich said people can raise awareness about the importance of maintaining funding for the 107-year-old theater in several ways.

“I just encourage them to make their voices heard by leaving us a review online, going to our Facebook page and commenting. For those Galesburg residents, please feel free to let your councilors know the Orpheum is important to you,” she said.

Under scrutiny
Mayor Peter Schwartzman told TSPR the allocation of the city’s hotel motel tax has been under scrutiny for a few years.

Previous councils and administration were aware that the Orpheum’s annual funding was above the cap in the contract, but it was still approved in the annual budget.

“That’s no fault of the Orpheum,” Schwartzman said. “In effect, the council was supportive of giving the Orpheum increased amounts of money.”

And there were conversations about whether it should be returned to the contract level.

“That’s one aspect of what we’re talking about here. Now the second aspect is when the new council was brought on in May, this was a priority for them to revisit the hotel motel tax apportions,” Schwartzman said.

Schwartzman said changes to the hotel motel tax allocations for next year’s budget were never discussed in a public meeting.

He thinks the hotel motel tax allocations do need to be revisited, but was against cutting the Orpheum’s back to the contract level all at once.

“My alternative measure would be to ramp it down over a few years until such time we actually have a chance to revisit the apportionment of the hotel motel tax,” Schwartzman said. “It was something that was kind of put together bit by bit over time, and when you do things like that, you obviously have to look at them comprehensively.”

Other changes
In addition to cutting funding for the Orpheum by around $30,000, the budget increases funding for Galesburg Promise by around the same amount.

Galesburg Promise is an incentive program for high school students that pays some tuition to attend Carl Sandburg College. It gets 2% of the hotel motel tax, too.

Schwartzman said there are funding increases the public may not know about in other areas too from other revenue sources.

For instance, the mayor said $100,000 is budgeted in the economic development fund for Discovery Depot Children’s Museum after they got $60,000 last year.

There’s also a $55,000 increase for the Galesburg Tourism and Visitors Bureau. That organization gets a flat $190,000 from the hotel motel tax annually, but is budgeted next year for extra funding in other areas.

“My goal, now that the budget is up for a vote, is to make clear to the public what this council has instructed the city manager to do in these areas,” Schwartzman said. “Increases in certain areas, and the only area that I know of that is showing a decrease is the Orpheum.”

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Jane Carlson is TSPR's regional reporter.