It's becoming the norm: The Minnesota Orchestra reported Wednesday its third consecutive year of balanced budgets.
Orchestra leaders are hoping that financial stability will help lure a new CEO.
The orchestra announced Wednesday a search to replace Kevin Smith, the orchestra's president and CEO, who has long planned to retire in August 2018.
Smith came out of retirement in 2014, at age 63, to rebuild the state's largest performing arts organization after a bitter, 16-month lockout.
At its annual meeting Wednesday evening, Smith announced a balanced budget for fiscal year 2017. Net assets were up, debt was down.
"The organization has come a long way" since running a series of deficits, Smith said in a phone interview. "We're in a terrific position now."
The nonprofit's annual report detailed a surplus of about $79,000 on its $32.6 million operating budget for fiscal 2017.
Earned revenue for the year, which ended Aug. 31, totaled $10.5 million. That's nearly $1 million more than the previous year but still less than the orchestra's peak of $10.9 million in 2009.
Expenses rose to $32.6 million for fiscal 2017, up from $31.7 million the year before.
The nonprofit used $3.8 million from endowments and trusts to help balance the budget.
A few years after renovating Orchestra Hall, revenue from rentals and food and beverage sales exceeded $1.5 million, 19 percent more than in fiscal year 2016.
Such income has exceeded expectations, Smith said. The orchestra had projected that a new atrium and refurbished lobby — a controversial project completed during the lockout in 2013 — would increase revenue by 40 percent, a prediction Smith considered "bullish." But revenue has topped those predictions.
"We continue to see more and more activity here, whether it's corporate activities, corporate rentals, weddings," he said. "It really has just been a tremendous success as a public space."
This year, the orchestra also paid off $5.6 million in debt related to the hall's renovation. The organization has worked to decrease its debts, Smith said. He noted that about $1.5 million related to an earlier renovation project remains on the books.
Meanwhile, the board is searching for a new CEO to succeed Smith, whom both board members and musicians credit with mending divisions after a two-year labor-management war.
"I've worked for six orchestra CEOs in a 20-year career," violist Sam Bergman tweeted Wednesday. "Kevin had the least direct experience coming in, but left all the others in the dust. We were so lucky to have him."
After taking charge of the orchestra at what he called a "very unstable time," the board asked him to stay for six months, then a year.
"When all was said and done, it was a four-year commitment," Smith said.
Marilyn Carlson Nelson, chairwoman of the board, announced Wednesday that a 15-person committee, including board members, staff and musicians, is conducting the search for a new CEO.
In a news release, Nelson said, "A top priority is to identify a new leader who is committed to participating in and further developing the collaborative culture that is fundamental to the orchestra's success."