DIXON – The Dixon Municipal Band director wants to work with the city to keep the band off of the budget chopping block.
Mark Bressler, whose tenure with the band spans 31 years, the past 10 as director, approached the City Council on Wednesday concerned about the possibility that the band budget might get cut.
The council is looking at about 30 options to cut expenses or increase revenues, to help it offset growing pension obligations and health insurance costs.
For now, the band, which performs free of charge for 14 events, including a 10-week summer concert series and in the city’s annual Memorial Day and Petunia Festival parades, is set to get about $41,500 in the city’s fiscal year 2018 budget that takes effect May 1.
Any or all of that could be cut.
That amount has remained fairly steady the past several years, except for 2012, when the band budget was slashed in half after former comptroller Rita Crundwell’s $53 million embezzlement from city coffers was discovered.
During that time, the band cut back on performances, reduced the number of musicians and sought donations from the community.
Bressler said it’s not likely that the band would be able to raise enough to keep going if the city cut its ties, and it wouldn’t be able to charge admission without also having to pay licensing fees to play copyrighted music.
“We would cease to exist,” he said.
The band’s connection with the City Council dates back to an ordinance drafted in the 1930s that allows the city to levy funds to finance it.
“We essentially provide the musical history and culture of our city,” he said.
The levy could generate about $75,000 a year, he said, and because the band’s budget has remained fairly level, that would leave more than $30,000 for the city to distribute elsewhere.
The city, however, has been funding the band itself since 2014. It stopped levying for the band because it can collect only so much under the Property Tax Extension Limitation Law, Finance Director Paula Meyer said.
“We don’t have the capacity because of the cap,” she said. “It’s a zero-sum game.”
Dixon Mayor Li Arellano Jr. said levying property tax dollars for the band would take away from funds going to the fire and police departments.
The city still is finalizing its budget, but its general fund is projected to have a surplus of about $530,000 – $9.8 million in revenue and $9.3 million in expenses.
The water department fund, however, is likely to be about $608,000 in the red.
Bressler said he understands that the city is faced with increased pension costs, but there should be enough “wiggle room” to keep supporting the band for the year while looking at alternative solutions to finance it in the long term.
He suggested that they work together before pulling the band funds.
Councilman Kevin Marx said he appreciates Bressler’s willingness to approach the issue on a collaborative basis.
DIXON MUNICIPAL BAND
Go to saukvalleyartsandculturecommission.org or call 815-631-3948 to learn more about the Dixon Municipal Band.
Donations to the Friends of the Dixon Municipal Band can be sent to Cathy James, 404 W. Ninth St., Sterling IL 61081.