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San Antonio Symphony among 37 arts agencies to get funding slashed by city

Funding cut blamed on huge shortfall in San Antonio’s Hotel Occupancy Tax

SAN ANTONIO – The San Antonio Symphony, which has been struggling to fix past financial troubles, will have less money in its coffers after the city of San Antonio decided to discontinue funding for 37 arts agencies after April due to a shortfall in the Hotel Occupancy Tax.

City officials announced this week that arts programs would be getting 20% less in funding.

The new fiscal year starts in October and funding beyond that will depend on how the city shakes out after the COVID-19 pandemic subsides and tourists return to the city. City Manager Eric Walsh said the city is working with the state comptroller, hotels and CPS Energy to determine projections for next year’s budget.

“We are keeping our fingers on the pulse,” Walsh said. “But we just won’t know until we get a little bit further into it because the city collects revenue in arrears.”

Mary Ellen Goree, principal second violin with the symphony, said symphony officials are not surprised the pandemic is impacting their budget. Goree said the symphony’s focus right now is making sure the community is healthy and everyone returns for the next season.

“The main goal is that when the crisis is over ... is that we have a healthy symphony on stage and a healthy audience in the house,” she said.

Goree said she’s confident the symphony’s leadership is working on finding a solution for alternative sources of revenue.

In a statement, symphony executive director Corey Cowart said the organization is grateful “for the many years of support and partnership from the City of San Antonio Department of Arts and Culture.”

The symphony is losing about $90,000 in remaining disbursement from the city that would have been paid in July. The total budget for the current season is $7.7 million.

“The unprecedented drop in the San Antonio Hotel Occupancy Tax and the resulting impact on the City’s budget for arts funding do not help the financial turnaround of the Symphony, though what causes us the most concern are the health and safety of our people and our community,” Cowart said.

While the city will have less money for the symphony, a large percentage of the 1,800 ticket holders who purchased tickets for the season that is now canceled chose to donate the value of their tickets to the symphony to keep the value of their tickets for future performances.

The symphony is working to announce the 2020 to 2021 season later this month, which should start around September.

“Despite the realities the pandemic has made for today, we know that life will revive and continue. It is critical that we proceed with our plans to welcome audiences to the Tobin for future San Antonio Symphony performances and seasons,” Cowart said.

You can see the arts programs that are funded by city tax dollars, on page 323 of the 2020 Budget.

COVID-19, the respiratory disease caused by the new virus, stands for coronavirus disease 2019. The disease first appeared in late 2019 in Wuhan, China, but spread around the world in early 2020, causing the World Health Organization to declare a pandemic in March.

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