JOLIET – The $500,000 funding for the Rialto Square Theatre in the city budget appears secure after the theater faced what amounted to a one-person challenge Wednesday.
Meanwhile, the budget deficit for 2018 was recalculated at $5 million after the city’s top accountant used what may have been more realistic estimates on personnel costs.
The Rialto was the main topic of conversation, despite being a fraction of the overall $284 million city budget, at a special City Council meeting before a vote on the budget next week.
Rialto officials made a brief presentation on theater finances and operations at the request of council member Larry Hug, who each year opposes the $500,000 that the city gives to the theater.
“The poor people in Joliet who can’t afford to go to shows, which is a lot of people, are subsidizing those who can,” Hug said Wednesday, criticizing the use of tax dollars to fund the Rialto.
But Mayor Bob O’Dekirk and other council members said they believe the Rialto has made progress and gave no indications they would object to funding.
“There is a big difference from where you were at last year,” O’Dekirk told Rialto board Chairman Bob Filotto. “You walked into a situation where the theater wasn’t solvent.”
The Rialto still is not in good financial shape.
Executive Director Valerie Divine presented numbers showing that the Rialto expects to end its fiscal year in June with a $488,000 deficit in its own budget.
But O’Dekirk noted that the theater a year ago was not paying bills, a situation that has changed.
Other council members gave a fairly rosy review of developments at the theater over the past year.
“We wish you more success and more of a revenue stream coming in,” council member Bettye Gavin said.
Council member Jan Quillman credited Devine with being more visible in the community than her predecessor, Randy Green, although she did not mention his name.
“Not like the former manager, you’re out and about,” Quillman said.
Finance Director James Ghedotte said he recalculated personnel costs for 2018 to arrive at a $5 million deficit. The original budget contained an $8.7 million deficit.
Ghedotte said he was “a little conservative” instead of “ultra conservative” in calculating costs. The original budget expenses were based on every job being filled year-round, which Ghedotte said is never the case.
The deficit would be funded with reserve funds, which, Ghedotte said, still would total $48 million.
The budget is slated to go to the council for a vote on Tuesday.