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Mayor Soglin, Overture Center at odds over funding

Published On: Nov 18 2012 10:33:47 PM CST
Updated On: Nov 19 2012 12:12:25 AM CST
Paul Soglin
MADISON, Wis. -

Madison Mayor Paul Soglin said he’ll sign off on the city council’s budget, but he still disagrees with the decision to give the Overture Center $2 million this session.

"We've got to make some decisions here about the redistribution of our own money," Soglin said Friday.

Overture Center spokesperson Rob Chappel said educational programs for area kids will be the first thing to go if city money is cut.

"Really, the city funding is one piece of the puzzle that includes ticket sales, rental revenue, private donations, many other sources of income," Chappel said. "If any one of those pieces of the puzzle disappears, we have to start looking at programs that don't generate revenue on their own."

Soglin’s most recent argument against the city funding Overture is that those educational programs don’t just benefit Madison kids. In fact, Soglin said students from nearly 50 schools outside city limits participate in a program that provides discounted tickets, meals, and bus rides for children.

Soglin would like to see the money going toward the Overture Center spent on tax cuts and helping the city’s homeless.

"Those two are a higher priority than tens of thousands of kids from schools outside of Madison and Dane County having their lunches and tickets paid for by the city of Madison," Soglin said.

Chappel confirms the educational programs at Overture reach out to kids outside of Madison, but he says he’s proud of the facility serving on a regional basis. He said there are at least 19,000 children from Madison benefiting from those programs.  Chappel said the center won’t apologize for bringing people downtown, and that Soglin was the one to first support their efforts.

"The decision has been made here in Madison that taxpayer money should go to support the arts," Chappel said.

Chappel said the city signed a ten-year structural agreement, committing money to Overture each year. The center’s lawyer said that obligation needs to be met.  Madison’s city attorney has said that agreement is not legally binding.

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