Ruth Eckerd Hall lays off 13, blames lack of donations

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Clearwater’s Ruth Eckerd Hall announced layoffs of 13 employees, nearly one-third of its workforce. CEO Zev Buffman cites lackluster contributions from a variety of sources. Nine full-time employees and four part-time employees will be out of a job, according to WTSP/10 News.

Buffman blames the layoffs on a lack of corporate donations, as well as state and federal funding.

Ruth Eckerd Hall ranks No. 3 in the world for venues with less than 2,500 seats, chosen by leading industry trade magazines.

For the 2011-2012 fiscal year, the non-profit performing arts center posted total revenue and support of over $21.4 million, with nearly $4.7 million in contributions and grants. In the same period, the center had slightly more than $20.6 million in expenses. They had also announced the “burning of the mortgage” for a $5 million renovation beginning in the 1980s.

In 2012, the center announced a $18 million “Expanding the Experience” program, an effort to expand production capabilities, increase revenues, and create jobs. The plan was to create productions in Tampa Bay that would be booked at other venues, beginning last November with Agatha Christie’s The BBC Murders, comprised of four lost Agatha Christie radio plays.

In July, REH officials announced $100,000 in grants from Duke Energy.

These economic woes cause some people to question if money REH spent renovating the Capitol Theater in downtown Clearwater was critical to its current troubles, and wondering if it will affect future programming.  

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Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.