Pittsburgh Symphony lays off 17 staffers to aid budget

Company hopes to close deficit by 2015

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The Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra has laid off almost 10 percent of its administrative staff in ongoing efforts to balance its budget and make operations more efficient.

The 17 employees laid off last month include all telephone sales representatives -- 12 part-time and two full-time employees -- and three full-time patron services representatives. The PSO employs 79 full-time and 80 part-time workers, not including musicians, said Louise Sciannameo, vice president of public affairs.

The telephone sales representatives were furloughed on Thursday. The telemarketing duties will be outsourced to a company operating in the same Downtown space on Penn Avenue near Heinz Hall but is not owned by the PSO. The furloughed employees will be able to interview for similar positions under the outside management.

PSO officials hope the vendor will make the operation more efficient through improved technology and training, she said. "We believe we will see a sustained increase in revenue and match that with lower overhead expenses."

She declined to identify the company but said it was selected after more than a year of research.

The three patron services representatives were let go on Feb. 7 and will not be replaced. Those employees work out of Heinz Hall and assist ticket-holders, particularly subscribers. The layoffs are "an early cost-saving measure" as the PSO looks to balance its budget. She did not know how much money the changes would save and would not confirm whether the moves resulted from low ticket revenue.

Last year, the PSO reported a $1.475 million deficit, down from $2.9 million in 2012. The PSO hopes to balance its budget by 2015 to get a $5 million grant from the Heinz Endowments. If it does so for three consecutive years, it will receive the remaining $12 million of a $29.5 million gift from the Simmons Family Foundation.

"We already know that we'll achieve [the balanced budget] through a combination of revenue growth and expense reduction," Ms. Sciannameo said.

Elizabeth Bloom: ebloom@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1750.

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