It was “pretty obvious” by early December that the short-term budget hole that WMRA was in was not like any other that Tom DuVal had experienced in his 13 years as the general manager at the public-radio station.
It’s just basic math, really. Listener support has generally held steady, which you might not expect at first glance when talking about being in a period of economic recession. It’s been the underwriting support from the business and organization sectors that has been the biggest punch in the gut, that and the $15,000 in cuts from the state in calendar year 2008.
Where that leaves WMRA and its sister station WEMC is staring at a projected $75,000 budget shortfall that could force some tough decisions on programming and staffing at the Harrisonburg-based radio station.
“We could just say, We’re going to continue with the status quo and hope that we’ll raise that much more than we anticipate, than we have conservatively estimated that we’ll raise at this point. The problem is that if three months from now we’re not doing that, it’s a lot harder to make up the difference in two or three months than it is in six months with cuts. You’ve got to cut more deeply then to get things to balance,” DuVal told me.
The talk of a projected $75,000 shortfall is actually good news, if you can believe that. As of this time last month, it was looking more like a $200,000 shortfall in the current fiscal year for WMRA, which operates on a July 1-June 30 budget year.
DuVal and the staff at WMRA decided to go public with the station’s plight in mid-December, and an uptick in support the last months of the last month of ’08 and the first week of ’09 have shown some promise of light at the end of an otherwise dark tunnel.
“We’re still making the appeals. Somebody walked in yesterday and wrote a check for a thousand dollars, said I’ve been hearing the message, and I wanted to see what I could do. So the money is still coming in every day. But we’re not out of the woods yet, by any means,” DuVal said.
– Story by Chris Graham