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BSO, Other Cultural Organizations Getting Less Money From Baltimore County This Year

Graphic courtesy BSO

Despite the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s financial straits, Baltimore County is reducing the amount of money it usually gives to the orchestra. 


Nevertheless, County Executive Johnny Olszewski said the BSO still has the county’s full support.




Last year, the county gave the BSO $680,000. This fiscal year it’s being reduced to $600,000. Also, the county is keeping around $90,000 of that to help pay for the expenses of its July 3 concert at Oregon Ridge. That leaves a little more than $500,000 for the BSO’s general fund, which is closer to a $170,000 cut. 


The BSO canceled its annual Star Spangled Spectacular at Oregon Ridge when it decided to cut back to a 40 week season to save money. So the county put on its own show.


Olszewski said the county can justify keeping the $90,000 because the BSO did not deliver on its promise to hold a July 4 concert.


“I don’t know if that’s necessarily a reduction since it was part of their grant application and in all the years past as well,” Olszewski said.


The BSO is a gem, according to Olszewski, but they had to make cuts throughout the budget to help close an $81 million shortfall. He said he plans to continue to support the BSO in future years.


With that said, Olszewski said his administration will actively monitor the BSO’s situation. The Baltimore Sun reported a financial audit raised questions as to whether the BSO can remain in business for another year.


In a statement, BSO CEO Peter Kjome said the organization understands why the county had to reduce the funding and appreciates what they are still getting. 


In the statement,  Kjome stressed how the BSO benefits the county.


“In addition to a dedicated Side-by-Side program with Baltimore County students, as well as the Baltimore Symphony Youth Orchestras (based at the County’s Carver Center), Baltimore County residents comprise approximately 20% of all BSO patrons each year,” Kjome said.


Kjome added thet they plan to bring back the BSO’s Star Spangled Spectacular concert next summer.


Overall, Baltimore County is giving $2.6 million to cultural organizations. That’s about $200,000 less than last year. Almost all of that money is being spent in Baltimore City, or in Howard or Harford Counties.


Olszewski said going forward they will use data to figure out what organizations are most benefiting county residents, from attendance to jobs.


Olszewski said, “So what we’re trying to avoid is a wash, rinse, repeat style grant process where applicants basically regurgitate the prior year’s grant application.”


Olszewski said that’s the way the county awarded the grants in past years.


This fiscal year, Baltimore County awarded grants to more than 30 organizations outside the county, totaling more than $2.5 million. The dollar amounts of each grant range from the $600,000 given to the BSO to $2,500 awarded to Maryland Art Place. Some of the other beneficiaries include:


  • Maryland Zoological Society     $450,000 ($50,000 less than last year)
  • Baltimore Museum of Art           $340,000 ($10,000 less than last year)
  • Walters Art Museum                    $300,000 ($50,000 less than last year)
  • National Aquarium                        $195,000 ($5,000 less than last year)
  • Baltimore Center Stage               $133,000 (Same as last year)
  • Everyman Theatre                         $15,000 ($4,500 more than last year)
  • Baltimore Choral Arts Society  $20,000 ($2,000 more than last year)



John Lee is a reporter for WYPR covering Baltimore County. @JohnWesleyLee2
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