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Message from the director: Mayor’s proposed budget maintains funding for arts and culture

This afternoon Mayor Mike McGinn sent his proposed 2012 budget to the Seattle City Council.  Despite a tough economic climate – the city is facing an $18 million shortfall out of a $910 general fund budget – the mayor’s proposal sustains funding for the Office of Arts & Cultural Affairs’ core programs at just over $7 million in 2012.

The mayor’s budget maintains the Office as an independent city department (earlier this year, the department was part of a feasibility study, which examined the merger of several small city departments), establishes an operating reserve and creates a one-time program to create and sustain jobs in the arts sector.

The reserve account – based on 8 percent of the Office’s portion of admission tax receipts – will help buffer the department from forecasted fluctuations in revenue. Admission tax revenue funds our department’s operations and grant programs and is separate from our other primary funding source, the municipal arts fund, which sets aside one percent of the cost of city building projects for public art.

Funded at $250,000, the arts jobs program supports the Seattle Jobs Plan and features a competitive funding program, technical assistance and business development.

As in 2011, the proposed budget also includes more than $1 million of admission tax funding for arts-related programming in the Department of Parks and Recreation to preserve a range of community arts programming across the city and provide relief to the general fund. And for a second year, we will reduce the number of concerts at City Hall, presenting free, outdoor performances during the summer only.

The shift of admission tax dollars to Parks, the establishment of a reserve account and launch of a jobs program is likely to result in modest reductions to one or more of our grant programs in 2012. Like other city departments, we must do more with less. The mayor’s proposal abrogates a vacant part-time position on our funding team.

The mayor’s budget is now before the City Council for review. The Council is expected to vote on the final budget by Nov. 21.  I will update you related to our budget and funding program allocations as further information becomes available.

The Office is proud to partner with the community to promote arts and culture in Seattle. Together, our work ensures that Seattle’s vibrant and unique cultural sector will continue to thrive. Thank you for your support.

Vincent E. Kitch