JOLIET – The Rialto Square Theatre is not leaving its annual Joliet funding to chance this year as it begins a series of one-on-one meetings with city council members.
The meetings are part of a wider project to meet with government officials and private business people in an effort to line up more reliable outside funding for the Rialto.
"There's a lot of behind-the-scenes work going on," Rialto board Chairman Bob Filotto said at last week's board meeting. "Just keep up the effort is all I can say."
Board members have taken up the cause to approach county officials and others in their appeals for funding.
Joliet has been the theater's most reliable source of money for decades and provided $500,000 this year. But the money was not originally in the city budget and became a controversial topic before the city council approved the funding.
The first meeting with council members occurred Thursday with Councilman Michael Turk, who had been an advocate for Rialto funding in last year's budget showdown.
"We didn't get into specifics," Turk said of the meeting. "But they are talking with other governments, and they are working with private individuals. So, it's not just Joliet."
The Rialto already is ahead of where they were last year concerning Joliet funding.
The city's preliminary budget includes $500,000 for the Rialto, said Councilman Pat Mudron, who is the council's liaison to the theater.
Mudron noted it's still early in the budget process.
But Rialto funding was not added to the city budget last year until December.
Filotto said Rialto representatives want to make their case for funding but also want to be ready for any issues council members may have with theater operations.
"We certainly would ask them for any concerns or questions that they want to share with us," he said at last week's meeting. "I hope the council and every person on the city council sees the good that has happened."
Last year's budget showdown also led to resignations from the entire previous Rialto board.
A new board has been assembled. VenuWorks has signed onto a fire-year contract to manage the theater, a stipulation for city funding. And a new executive director – Valerie Divine – has been hired.
The Rialto also has met a city quota for booking shows.
Filotto said the theater has stepped up community involvement, an issue raised by some city council members last year.
"We've had our doors open for community events whether we've had a stage performance or not," he said.