Majestic Theater needs help | arts-and-theater

The city belongs majestic theater at Corvallis faces a budget crisis that could lead to fewer shows at the beloved institution, a prospect that has some members of the community campaigning for more money.

City leaders recognize that the theater needs more full-time workers to mount more productions, to get to a point where it might be able to support itself. Currently, it does not – although not far off compared to other parks and recreation programs – require the city to subsidize its operations.

But even as revenue is expected to rise about 11.5% next year at the Majestic, the city faces tight budget constraints all around and wants to cut its grant.

What was once a plan to hire two more full-time employees should now mean the same, meaning sustainability is further away.

This is not acceptable for a growing contingent.

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“Majestic Ambassadors will be organizing hundreds of members of our community who are excited to share with you how much the Majestic means to them,” a letter to Corvallis town officials reads. “How essential it is for their mental and physical health.”

The letter, written by Moth Kelley on behalf of the Majestic Ambassadors, a group of volunteers supporting the theater, was received by city officials in April. Kelley, who also directs shows including the upcoming “Mathilde the musical“, wrote in favor of a budget for the 2022-2023 fiscal year including two positions of full-time production staff.

“Over the past six years, I have spent thousands of hours at the Majestic creating arts and cultural performances that have brought in over $100,000 in revenue,” Kelley, who uses the pronouns them/them, wrote.

Kelley pointed to what they called an impossible task: part-time staff working on a wide variety of shows while unable to work more than 20 hours a week in most cases, and doing so for low pay taking into account the necessary skills and experience.

Keep the doors open

A combination of volunteers and part-time workers fill many roles behind the scenes at the Majestic, according to a document provided by Meredith Petit, director of parks and recreation at Corvallis. There are only two positions that benefit from this: the full-time theater supervisor and a three-quarter-time senior administrative specialist.

The city has owned the Majestic since 1985, but it was operated by nonprofit management companies until it became unsustainable, according to Petit, who said the city gave Parks and Recreation responsibility for operations. in 2015, establishing a three-year trial period to see if the theater could break even financially.

In 2018, the city determined the Majestic would need additional funding, the document says, noting that revenue generated from registration fees, rentals, concessions and ticket sales was not sufficient to produce shows, properly manage staff and maintain the facility.

Reserve funds, the city’s savings account, helped cover budget shortfalls in years when expenses exceeded revenues, as well as a “minimal” grant from the general fund, according to the document.

In 2019, voters approved a levy on local options funnel additional property tax revenue to, among other city offerings, the Majestic to expand programming and combat inflation in staff costs related to salaries and benefits, Petit said. It also covers costs related to equipment, supplies, contract productions, utilities and licensing.

But spending has grown faster than income, perpetuating a growing funding gap. Petit noted that the amount of the general fund grant has always been “significantly lower” than allocations for other recreational facilities such as the Corvallis Community Center and the Osborn Aquatic Center, according to the document.

“Thereafter, the theater supports its operations with fundraising efforts, donations and grants in a higher proportion than other facilities, recognizing an average of nearly $140,000 in donations each year,” it said. she declared.

Balance the budget

The Parks and Recreation Department has a proposed budget for fiscal year 2022-23 of approximately $10.4 million, a 5.5% increase from the previous budget of $9.8 million, primarily due increased salaries and benefits for full-time staff, as well as internal service. charges.

According to the Parks and Recreation document, the Majestic’s share is $754,000, up from $721,000 previously. Projected revenues have been reduced from $645,100 to $719,700, while the general fund grant has been reduced from $75,900 to $34,300.

If full-time staff aren’t increased at the Majestic Theatre, there will be fewer productions and programs, according to the document, which says fewer programs will impact projected revenue, and addressing that could mean increasing program registration fees, seeking donations, sponsorships and grants, and promoting rental facilities.

A future solution could include an increase in dedicated revenue generated by a renewed levy, Petit said.

Although the proposed budget reduces the general fund grant, it is still in development. Without more full-time Majestic staff, revenue projections drop by about $170,000, bringing the grant to more than $200,000, according to the document.

Petit said Parks and Recreation will assess whether to move resources to offset the loss internally from other areas.

And none of this is for the deferred maintenance and upgrades needed for the facility itself, such as seat replacements, stage renovations, new rigging and air system upgrades. Nor does it solve the city-wide problem of personnel costs that outpace revenue growth and strain budgets at every level.

do a lot with little

Prior to the pandemic, the Majestic Theater hosted more than 130 performances a year as well as educational and enrichment programs and classes, garnering nearly 80,000 volunteer hours, according to the Parks and Recreation document.

When the pandemic shuttered many businesses temporarily or forever, the Majestic moved to a virtual stage, bringing creative and streaming shows online, Petit said. The theater has also been diligent in seeking grants to fill funding gaps, she said.

Guided by its diversity council, the theater has worked to become a more inclusive and accessible place and to engage with people from historically marginalized communities, the document states, and grants have been sought for features to accessibility, including hearing aid systems, closed captioning for videos and streaming. , and the development of open captioning and audio description programs.

Reserves funded the initial phase of an ongoing facility improvement project that upgrades ADA seating, replacing seats to better accommodate wheelchair users and others.

But the burden on Majestic’s staff is also apparent. The document says part-time work is difficult as wages and hour limits lead to turnover, force constant retraining, inconsistencies and burnout among permanent staff, adding that the quality of productions may suffer. .

Help not only wanted, but needed

This year, Parks and Recreation submitted applications for two full-time positions for the Majestic: a Technical Operations Coordinator and a Video Coordinator.

Churn, Kelley wrote to the city, means there have been times in the past when production staff have gone weeks without a full day off.

“For many years, we have been aware of the unsustainable nature of Majestic’s current operating model, which lacks the full-time worker support it needs to succeed,” they wrote.

According to Kelley, theater supervisor Jimbo Ivy often works more than 60 hours a week, filling not only his main role, but also any position that is vacant or needs support. Despite the grueling pace, staff aren’t able to fully sustain the shows, leaving them overworked and stressed about the quality of the work, Kelley wrote.

To minimize the impact on the city’s general fund of adding two full-time positions, budget cuts could be made to other areas, sets, costumes and other production elements, according to Kelley.

“We accepted this and told (Ivy) he had our support to make these cuts with others because we needed people more than things,” they wrote.

Budgets are statements of value

Kelley wrote that they were horrified to discover that the proposed budget for 2022-23 reduced general fund support, which they said could only mean fewer shows. Meanwhile, mounting pressure at the Majestic has resulted in several workers leaving or announcing departures over the past two months, according to Kelley.

“As they say, budgets are statements of value,” Kelley wrote. “And the statement from the town of Corvallis seemed to be that even without an impact on the general fund, the Majestic Theater would never get the full-time support it needed.”

The result of fewer workers was Ivy and others taking on long extra days.

“This situation is untenable and unacceptable to us, the community the Majestic serves,” Kelley wrote. “We ask the City Council to work with the Majestic Theater Supervisor and senior staff (Parks and Recreation) to find a way to provide this essential support to our community.”

Corvallis City Council and the Budget Committee will hold several meetings starting in May to review the proposed budget. Meetings are open to the public virtually and members of the public can provide written or verbal comments for review. A written testimonial is strongly recommended.

The Budget Committee is holding a public hearing on May 11 to gather comments. The council is due to hold a public hearing on the proposed budget on June 6.

“There is no doubt that the Majestic Theater is a valuable community asset,” Petit said. “It really is the hub of Parks and Recreation’s arts and culture programming. But it is difficult to find additional resources and it is a balancing act to prioritize all of our departmental programs and services according to available resources.

Cody Mann covers Benton County and the towns of Corvallis and Philomath. He can be reached at 541-812-6113 or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter via @News_Mann_.

“This situation is untenable and unacceptable to us, the community the Majestic serves.” ~Moth Kelley, Majestic Ambassadors

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