This is the story that just won’t quit!
It’s like Wack-A-Mole… its head pops up everytime you think it’s gone!
City of Orillia CAO Roman Martiuk has admitted to a local paper that the Orillia Opera House deficit for 2012 hit $530,000. However, as far as he and the Mayor are concerned, it’s quite alright and perfectly understandable. You see, it’s not a question of good management or bad management; it’s a question of accounting!
( from the Orillia Packet & Times, January 11th)
“Significant budget overruns at the Orillia Opera House and Leacock Museum are due to “unrealistic” targets, says the city’s CAO.The criticism is they didn’t meet budget,” Roman Martiuk said. “…My take on that is if you don’t set a realistic budget, no department will meet budget.”
The Opera House’s subsidy has been increased [for 2012] by $138,500 to be around $530,000.
For years, the budgets have not reflected the reality of running both facilities, Martiuk said.
In 2010, The Opera House was budgeted at $355,134,
while the actual deficit was $460,420.
In 2011, the deficit was budgeted to run a deficit of $399,397,
while the actual deficit was $495,357.
“….It does not impact how much the city is spending, as the money is already being spent. There’s no net change,” Martiuk said. “It’s just, do you plan for it or do you just let it happen?”
He also doesn’t feel the money is being mismanaged. “That’s not what I discovered,” he said. “It’s more of a budget system issue as opposed to any kind of mismanagement. I think we have extremely capable staff, extremely competent staff.”’
Projection Inaccuracies and Massive Deficit Increases Most Noticable from 2009-2012
The chart below (developed from public budget documents) shows clearly that Opera House projections became wildly inaccurate starting in 2009, coinciding with Storey’s first year as Manager. Over the past 4 years, the variation between ‘Projected’ and ‘Actual’ deficits averaged over 20%. During the 2001-2008 period, the average variation was only 7.5%
Annual deficit has ballooned 42% in only 4 years.
Annual deficits for the entire 8 year period of 2001 to 2008 grew only 17%
Projections from 2001 to 2008 were not only more accurate accurate but the actual annual deficits well contained.
Accurate projections and massive deficit incereases aside, Martiuk casually shrugged off any concerns about the innaccuracies or deficits, or management’s role in this. He also offered no explanation to the Packet & Times as to why the ‘Actual’ annual deficit of the Opera House had soared by over 42% in the 4 years since Krista Storey took over from Michael Martyn as manager. (Storey was recently nominated for ‘Orillia Business Leader of the Year’ for 2012, whereas Martyn was dismissed without cause.)
Not only does 2009 to 2012 coincide with Storey’s management take over of the City facility and the jump in annual deficits by 42%, but also the complete takeover by City and Opera House staff of summer theatre programming in Orillia. This in turn was marked in 2010 by the arrival of Laugh Out Loud Productions, a contracted supplier of programming specifically championed by Storey. As has been reported previously, both Storey and Laugh Out Loud have stated that local or regional talent (particularly the non-union variety) have no place in summer productions.
The Packet & Times article continues….
“….Mayor Angelo Orsi called it a “correction.” “It was an over-promised and under-delivery sort of thing that occurred and that’s why the adjustment has been made,” he said.
“With the adjusted targets, Martiuk said the facilities now have a reasonable chance of hitting their budget and the city’s year-end surplus will be better.”Also, by making the budgets reflect the true deficits, the city can more easily detect problems, he said.
Asked why the budgets were not changed in the past, Martiuk said he wasn’t sure.”
Why does this matter?
1. Every tax dollar that is re-directed to the ever-increasing flow of red ink at the Opera House is a dollar that cannot go towards support of the arts and culture of the City through grants and programs that directly benefit the artists, arts organisations and the community.
2. The ever-increasing deficit at the Orillia Opera House has no apparent correlation to any added value or contribution to the community of Orillia at large. Bear in mind that the City-run and City-funded summer theatre program almost entirely blocks off use of the Opera House for 4 months of the year, thereby denying use of the facility by the creative community, while at the same time denying creative talent the opportunity to perform in the City’s summer theatre program.
3. This should be a warning to other communities regarding the pitfalls of allowing a municipality to exert a strangehold on program delivery and facility availability, while simultaneously expressing a casual attitude to increasing deficits at the tax payers’ expense.
To read the article in full, please CLICK HERE
This story is part of an on-going series called ‘A Tale of 3 Cities’
CLICK HERE to see the other stories in the series, in reverse choronological order.