The CSO posted a surplus of $209,000 last year, but only because the group withdrew more than $10 million from its endowment. In 2000-01 and 2001-02, the orchestra ran deficits of $1.3 million and $6.1 million.
Chairman William H. Strong said at the CSO's annual meeting last night that the orchestra would balance its budget by 2006-07. But the group would still have an accumulated debt of at least $19.4 million to pay down, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.
"While the world-class music making of the Chicago Symphony Orchestra has remained a constant, the past few years have been a time of change for our organization," Strong said. "Current economic conditions have proven to be difficult for all businesses, even more so for non-profits like ours, which depend heavily on discretionary spending in the form of ticket sales, philanthropic giving, and investment income to support its activities."
Ticket revenue at Symphony Center dropped about 1 percent between 2002-03 and 2003-04, with attendance for CSO concerts remaining steady. Donations to the orchestra's annual fund fell by $400,000 to $14.4 million, largely because of reduced grants from governments and sponsors.
Officials did not comment Wednesday on the ongoing contract talks with musicians, which is under a press blackout. But according to the Sun-Times, a recording on the musicians' hotline said that "very little progress has been made" and "major differences remain."
Management and musicians agreed last month to extend talks through October 31, and enlisted the assistance of former federal judge Abner Mikva as mediator.