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Local News

Rialto Square Theatre looks for 2017 subsidy as deficit grows

JOLIET – The Rialto Square Theatre expects to end the year with a deficit nearing $700,000 as it prepares to ask the city to continue an annual subsidy that could be at risk for 2017.

VenuWorks, the third-party management company hired to run the Rialto, is preparing a business plan that would be sent to city officials Friday along with a request for funding next year.

That plan will show VenuWorks’ long-term strategy for reducing the city subsidy needed to sustain the Rialto, said John Siehl, chief operating officer for the company.

Joliet has contributed $600,000 annually to the Rialto for several years, but some city officials, including Mayor Bob O’Dekirk, have questioned the future of that subsidy.

Siehl was at a Rialto board meeting Wednesday where the main topic of discussion was the theater finances and the potential for a grant from Joliet for 2017.

VenuWorks has been reviewing Rialto operations since it started managing the theater on Sept. 1.

“I think we have a very good feel for the financial piece of the puzzle as we go forward with the grant request,” Siehl told the board.

The Rialto debt has grown over several months, and the projection of a year-end deficit close to $700,000 indicates that management expects bills to continue adding up through December.

The Rialto currently has bills totaling $570,000 with $74,000 in cash on hand, Finance Manager Dale Evans reported to the board. Evans projected a year-end deficit of $695,000.

Board member Vicki Murphy noted that the theater’s accounts payable are “constantly going up.”

Board Chairman Dan Vera said the business plan that goes to city officials will be “straight-forward, out in front, full disclosure.”

Vera said the proposed city budget coming out next week will not include funding for the Rialto. But Rialto representatives will be able to make a case to add that funding at the City Council’s first workshop meeting on the budget.

“We all knew that there was not going to be anything in the budget – the draft budget – that comes out Tuesday,” Vera said.

Vera also said he met with O’Dekirk this week to discuss the budget process and Rialto funding. He described the meeting as “very positive.”

O’Dekirk at a town hall meeting later on Wednesday told the Herald-News that he agreed with Vera that it was “a good meeting.” But the mayor said it was too early to say what the city may give the Rialto in 2017 since the City Council will get its first look at the proposed budget on Tuesday.

“There’s clearly going to be a debate – a healthy debate,” O’Dekirk said. “It’s premature without seeing the whole budget to discuss one item.”

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