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City balks at boosting theater funding

May 07, 1997

By JULIE E. GREENE

Staff Writer

The Washington County Museum of Fine Arts, the Maryland Symphony Orchestra and the Washington County Free Library are in line to get more funding from the City of Hagerstown in the upcoming fiscal year than they did under the current budget, but plans are to keep the Maryland Theatre's funding at the current level.

Hagerstown City Council members decided Tuesday to distribute an additional $10,000 to local nonprofit groups in the fiscal year beginning July 1 instead of keeping the money in a contingency fund.

Council members will vote on whether to approve the city's proposed budget, including the nonprofit contributions, at the 7 p.m. regular meeting on Tuesday.

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The historic South Potomac Street theater has ongoing financial troubles and in recent months has been plagued by a series of resignations, including those of its managing director and some board members.

City officials should see a business plan or signs that would give them confidence in the theater's future before they increase the city's annual contribution to the theater, Councilman Mark Jameson said on Wednesday.

The city plans to give the theater $5,000, the same amount it received this fiscal year. Theater officials had asked for $15,000.

"We would like to see something done with the management. We would like the board to be more involved with the management of the theater," said Councilman Fred Kramer.

Councilman William Breichner said the theater deserves the same treatment given other nonprofit groups. "If someone disagrees with management, they should be talking to management," he said.

Kramer said city officials might have given the theater more money had the contingency fund been larger.

Instead, Council members chose to spread the extra funding around. Under current plans:

  • The museum would receive $12,000, a $2,000 increase from this fiscal year.
  • The symphony would get $6,000, a $1,000 increase.
  • The library should receive $16,000, a $4,000 increase.
  • Citizens Assisting and Sheltering the Abused (CASA) would receive $21,500, a $2,500 increase.
  • The Washington County Historical Society would get $1,500, a $500 increase.
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