Arts groups across Central Florida are scrambling to plug budget gaps after United Arts pushed back an annual funding allocation from July to January.
Flora Maria Garcia, CEO of United Arts of Central Florida, says the schedule change is necessary to create a sounder budgeting system. Arts leaders agree it's a smart move — but that doesn't help them in the short term.
"It makes all the sense in the world, but it's going to hurt and not be good for us," said Jeffrey Revels, artistic director of Orlando Repertory Theatre. He expects to lose about $30,000 this year on the new payment schedule.
Garcia, who joined United Arts in May, already has shown she's not afraid of making big changes. One of her first acts was canceling the popular ArtsFest, a free festival across Central Florida, saying United Arts should focus on raising money.
The latest change is necessary, Garcia said, because United Arts doesn't find out how much government money it will receive until October. The organization — which supports more than 50 arts and cultural organizations in Orange, Seminole, Osceola and Lake counties — previously estimated how much government funding it would receive and then adjusted allocations if necessary.
"It was not an arbitrary move by us," Garcia said. "We wanted to make sure we had funds in hand before we allocated them. It's best to give money away you know you have."
Fifteen groups receive these annual general-operating-support grants and are affected by the change. Of those, Garcia said, five contacted United Arts to say it would create a hardship. She would not name those groups.
The new schedule was recommended by a United Arts task force during the summer. The 13-member committee included representatives from philanthropic foundations; Orlando and Orange County government; and area arts groups.
That recommendation was approved by the United Arts board in the fall and first presented to arts leaders in mid-November. But some wish they had been given more notice.
"It didn't feel like a lot of lead time," said Ava Doppelt, chairwoman of Orlando Ballet's board of directors.
The ballet's managing director, Katherine
Orlando Ballet is determined to avoid eliminating performances because its top dancers could then seek more lucrative contracts elsewhere, she said.
"The organization is committed to having a full and robust 40th-anniversary season, and we are therefore continuing to examine all options available to us," Fabian said.
As a stopgap, Garcia said, United Arts will more quickly pay out matching funds it collects during its current public-fundraising campaign, a separate initiative from the operating grants.
Even with that money coming early, the ballet still won't have the equivalent of roughly six weeks of dancer salaries, Fabian said.
United Arts is looking at other ways to help groups, Garcia said. The organization is talking with donors about helping pay the interest on short-term loans for groups that pursue that option, Garcia said.
However, "it is incumbent on the arts groups to manage themselves," she said.
At Orlando Repertory Theatre, Revels said the group might shorten the run of a show aimed at middle-school and high-school students or curtail a teacher-education program it facilitates with the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington.
"It's an incredible program, but it's not something people coming through the doors every day would notice," Revels said.
Other local arts leaders said they were doing whatever they could to avoid cutting programs.
•The Orlando Philharmonic will rely on cash reserves to make up the lost funds, said Executive Director David Schillhammer.
"While concerned, we will remain a strong and healthy organization in the short term," he said. "We planned for a rainy day, and by golly we got one."
•Orlando Shakespeare Theater will use special fundraising related to its 25th anniversary to close its funding gap, a spokeswoman said. Based on last year's allocation, that gap would be about $75,000.
•The Bach Festival Society of
"We'll talk to our donors," she said. "We've got to become more self-reliant. I think everybody wants to do the best for their organization and the community. It just gets harder."