Jacksonville orchestra’s union offers to cut salaries by 3 percent

Financial viability of orchestra in dispute

Posted: September 25, 2012 – 12:28pm

The new season of the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra begins Friday. But if the disagreements between the Jacksonville Symphony Association and employees are reflected in the music, expect everything to be out of tune.

On Tuesday the union representing Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra musicians offered to cut their pay by 3 percent for the next two years. That would lower the base pay of the 53 musicians from $40,155 a year to about $38,950.

That reduction will pay for two years, with orchestra members then going back to their current salaries in the third year.

“We continue to make a good faith effort, and are offering concessions we feel are unnecessary but may get both parties to an agreeable contract that is fair for all involved,” said Peter Wright, the orchestra’s principal clarinetist and the president of local 444 of the American Federation of Music.

Management has demanded the union take a 20 percent cut in salary, to about $32,308 per year.

This would also involve a drop from a 37 week season to 33 weeks. The union’s counterproposal restores a 37 week season, Wright said.

Symphony board-Chairman-elect Martin Connor, said the offer was a positive first step.

“We are delighted that they seem to be willing to concede that there are financial troubles,” Connor said. “But this offer would still leave us with a loss of over $1 million.

Even with the cuts being proposed by management, the Orchestra still expects to lose over $300,000 this year, Connor said.

“It’s important to point out that we’re making cuts across the board,” he said. “It’s not just to the orchestra.”

Management and the union also disagree on the financial status of the organization.

Management claims the financial situation is precarious with a $3 million deficit and $1.1 million lost in the last three years, while union officials argue that taking additional interest from the $14 million in endowment and foundation accounts would help add additional funds to the operating budget each year.

The association has about $7.5 million in assets invested, drawing about 5 percent interest each year on that money for operating expenses. The Jacksonville Symphony Foundation also has more than $6 million invested, with the symphony getting about $329,000 in revenue this year.

Wright said an additional $280,000 in money could become available by using seven percent of the interest instead of five.

But Connor disputes that, and said that $4.2 million of the association money has been posted as collateral to secure a $3.6 million line of credit, and another $1.8 million is restricted funds provided by the state of Florida, with the symphony only entitled to the income generated off of that money.

That leaves only about $1.5 million left, which is not enough to pay the debts the symphony has, Connor said.

Management also argues that it can’t just take the $6 million from the Jacksonville Symphony Foundation because it’s a charitable foundation governed by it’s own bylaws.

“And even if we did take more money from our reserves,” Connor said. “We’d be stuck with the same problem next year.”

Union members had the option to strike, but last week said they would not do that. A complaint has been filed with the National Labor Relations Board alleging that the symphony association has engaged in “economic bad faith bargaining.”


Larry Hannan: (904) 359-4470

Read more at Jacksonville.com: http://jacksonville.com/news/florida/2012-09-25/story/jacksonville-orchestras-union-offers-cut-salaries-3-percent#ixzz27VdUi8NP

2 thoughts on “Jacksonville orchestra’s union offers to cut salaries by 3 percent

  1. Bob Hughes

    Just amazing – I must find out who this Martin Connor is and what company he is affiliated with. I am just dumbfounded at his logic. This proposal made today is the SIXTH, count them, 1,2,3,4,5,6 proposal the musicians have laid on the table during these negotiations, and Connor has the nerve to say that today’s offer “was a good first step?” REALLY??? Have you been out of town all summer Mr. Connor while the musicians have done your job for you?

    I have said this in previous posts and I will say it again, it is the JOB of the Board and the staff of the JSA to underwrite the budget to provide the funds to keep the music playing. If the fixed cost of the orchestra is 4 million and you propose a budget of 8.1 million, then you must underwrite 8.1 million by way of ticket sales, private donations, corporate donations and board donations. Based on the Dashboard posted on the symphony web-site, the projected earned revenue from tickets sales for the past year is 3.1 million. The projected contributed income is 4.3 million. The number that jumps out at me on this dashboard is the contribution from the Board. Of the 4.3 million, only 531,000 is directly attributed to the Board. Quite honestly, their is your problem. The total budget of this organization is 8.6 million of which only 500,000 is given by its Board. That is simply disgraceful.

    In the typical non-profit organization, the Board is usually responsible for 25-30% of the contributed income. Currently, the Board of the Jacksonville Symphony contributes about 6% towards the budget. Time for a new Board!!!!
    Now before you start jumping the issue, I am very aware that many of the companies of Board members contribute in way of sponsorships. Ok, let’s add that. The amount displayed for sponorships is $863,575, roughly 10% of the budget. Therefore, if you add the Board and Sponsorships together, you still only have 16% of the annual budget, a far cry from the 25-30% which is standard for non-profits.

    Yet, the musicians are asked to take a 20% pay cut, plus asssumer 50% of the health care benefit cost. The end result is about a 35% reduction in annual living income. Again, a far cry from the “across the board cuts for staff”, which according to previous articles has averaged 3%. (granted the Executive Director is taking a 10% cut – but that position was probably already 30-40% overpaid in relation to the rest of the staff).

    Jacksonville, we will suffer a great loss in this community if we lose this orchestra. You may never attend, but you reap the benefit of those that do. Many companies look to the arts to determine if they want to move to Jacksonville and if we lose our symphony, we will close the door on future business.

    Just like only, 40,000-50,000 people attend Jaguar games, we all reap the benefits of the exposure for our city. It is the same for our Symphony. Also, think about this, the CIty of Jacksonville owns the Times Union Center for the Performing Arts and rents Jacoby Symphony Hall to the orchestra. Without the symphony, the City loses the rental income and the building goes dark, costing thousands of dollars to the City. So before you toss the symphony aside, get educated as to its impact on the totality of Jacksonville.

    Back to the budget – next time you go to the symphony, take a look at the names of the people on the Naming Wall, on listed as Board members or Honorary Board Members. They are the “names of Jacksonville”. Many of them could individually resolve the budget issues if asked. The problem is, we have a history of not cultivating our donors and sponsors. We need new life in the leadership at the JSA. The majority of the senior staff have been around for many, many years and are doing the same things today they did when they arrived. We have been promised an Endowment Campaign for years, yet it never seems to materialize. What is the definition of insanity? Doing the same thing over and over yet expecting different results.

  2. Dana


    You are exactly on point as to the duties and responsibilities of the Board and administrative staff. In answer to your question: Marty Connor is an 84 year old retired attorney who lives in Epping Forest. He moved here from the DC area about 10 or so years ago.

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