VALPARAISO | Nearly a year after a debate about Porter County government's role in funding the arts, the newly appointed interim director of the Memorial Opera House unveiled a proposed 2013 budget that is nearly $96,000 less than this year.
The proposed budget, which caused concern among a couple of members of the county council Tuesday night, calls for $420,248 in spending.
The budget cuts were made possible by streamlining operations, said Interim Director Michelle Smith.
These efforts included reducing the box office hours and the pay for its staff, and doing away with a maintenance person and a contract with a firm selling gift cards, according to a list of cost savings provided to the county council.
Also canceled are films, which were not even paying for themselves, Smith said.
A tradition of staging six musicals each year will be replaced in 2013 with five musicals and two plays, she said. Each musical costs between $5,000 and $8,000 in royalties, plus the cost of hiring musicians. No royalties are charged for plays, she said.
The cost of staging the productions also was decreased by ending an agreement to pay directors $800 per show, Smith said. The directors are now volunteering their time.
"Which just shows you a lot of the momentum we have for the Opera House," she said.
Mercury Cleaners in Valparaiso also has agreed to donate its services to dry clean costumes, which is saving $300 a month, Smith said.
"We are watching every penny," she said.
The Opera House also ended a contract with a website provider and has teamed up with the county tourism bureau for a new site that will premiere next week, Smith said.
While the Opera House generates much of its own income, a debate on government contributions erupted last year when the county council narrowly agreed to spend $250,000 in local income tax money at the 119-year-old facility at 104 Indiana Ave. in Valparaiso.
The money was cleared to hire a full-time bookkeeper, marketing director and house manager. The balance was to be used to purchase a new boiler, and to repair the roof and ceiling.