This afternoon the Seattle City Council approved the city’s 2010 budget. View the major budget highlights here. I am pleased to report the package preserves funding for our core programs and underscores the importance of arts and culture in a healthy city.
The council unanimously voted to accept a key piece of legislation in Mayor Greg Nickels’ proposed budget to increase the annual percentage of city-admission-tax revenue dedicated for arts and culture from 20 percent to 75 percent. The city collects five percent on every dollar of ticket sales to entertainment and recreational events, including movies, rock concerts and UW football games.
The boost in admission-tax revenue not only provides a dedicated funding stream for the Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs, it helps to buffer us from the year-to-year variability of the general fund. This shift will allow us to maintain our current level of community investment in 2010. In other words, we will be able to hold the line across our funding programs for organizations, artists and community groups.
I’m often asked if more admission-tax dollars flowing to our office will result in cuts to other city programs. The answer is no, as our department will take an equivalent reduction in general-fund dollars. So from a dollars-and-cents stand point, the change is budget neutral.
And like other city departments, we are doing more with less. Our total budget for 2010 is just over $6 million down from $6.9 million in 2009. To help make up the difference, we shaved administrative and operational expenses, and staff will take 10 furlough days next year. A portion of the reduction is also due to changing capital budgets for public art projects.
Finally, I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge two City Councilmembers who are leaving office at the end of this year. Councilmember Jan Drago has been a longtime advocate for arts and culture, including helping to secure city funding for Benaroya Hall. Councilmember Richard McIver always asked the tough questions and made sure that our programs and services reached deep into the community.
Although it has been a challenging year economically, we have much to be thankful for in this budget and extend our thanks to the mayor and council for their support of arts and culture in Seattle.