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OC Performing Arts Center lays off 10

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Making what its president called ‘a tough decision’ to cut staff in hopes of avoiding deficits or programming cuts, the Orange County Performing Arts Center announced Friday that it has eliminated seven full-time and three part-time jobs, while mandating cost reductions across all departments. The lost jobs represent a 6% reduction in the full-time workforce of about 100.

Terrence Dwyer (right), the center’s president who in his previous post as La Jolla Playhouse’s managing director earned praise for helping to shepherd the theater out of fiscal problems during the 1990s, and a reputation as a budget hawk even in relatively flush times, said in a written statement that with the cuts, he is projecting a balanced budget for the fiscal year that ends June 30. Ticket sales are running ‘close to target,’ Dwyer said, and board members are coming up with ‘additional gifts’ to help the center weather the bad economy without dropping scheduled performances or decreasing education programs.

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The Costa Mesa center was among the first Southern California arts organizations to be badly buffeted by the subprime mortgage meltdown: the past fiscal year, 2007-08, yielded its first annual budget deficit since it opened in 1986. That $13 million caldron of red ink stemmed from unexpected misadventures in the bond markets rather than poor box office or fundraising results.

The interest payments on OCPAC’s $265 million in construction bonds for the Renee and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall came in much higher than expected, and the center had to take an additional $8.8 million accounting loss, after its bond insurance policy turned worthless.

-- Mike Boehm


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