The Council for Culture and the Arts will get an additional $300,000 to direct toward programs that are not eligible for other funding, but a city commission’s decision to do so could open the door to other groups seeking money.
The city will have to retool its $1.031 billion budget for next year to accommodate the additional appropriations, and is likely to run a growing deficit, close to $1 million, while crafting its 2024 spending plan.
The commissioners opposed the staff recommendation not to approve the request of the Central Organization for Control and Accountability, and voted unanimously to approve the increase in funding. COCA takes advantage of city and county funding each year to administer a grant program for other organizations related to the arts.
The CAA is already getting $192,000 from the city, $150,000 from the county and one cent from the five-cent tourism tax, expected to reach $1.4 million next year, above pre-pandemic levels.
Most of the requested funding is for organizations that are “still stumbling” from a financial perspective because they are not eligible for tourism development tax money or any other government funding, said Kathleen Sphar, executive director of the Central Organization for Control and Accountability.
Among others, the cash injection will fund community arts programs such as Cool Breeze Art and Jazz Festival, Southern Shakespeare, arts programs for people diagnosed with autism, Tallahassee Youth Orchestra (TYO) camps in economically challenged neighborhoods, and the Young Actor Theater (YAT). ). ) and Tallahassee Youth Ballet Programs.
She told the commissioners that there was usually not enough tourist fee as required by state law to make such organizations eligible.
“That’s why we came to the commission in the first place, because we’re trying to catch people who have failed and we have no other choice,” she said. “Let’s do the work for the community. Let’s do the work so that these people can get funding and don’t have to go through various machinations. I know this is a tough choice for the committee, but it’s the right choice.”
COCA hopes to allocate $200,000 to existing arts organizations and another $100,000 to programs that are ineligible or ineligible for other city-funded programs.
Potential new programs have not yet been identified.
Budget Director Robert Wiggin said the additional funding for Organized Crime Prevention and Control will come from the city’s allocation of US federal bailout funds. Dollars from the COVID-19 assistance package have been used to balance the 2023 budget that has yet to be approved and could mean other services or projects are postponed until 2024.
City commissioners have built a reporting component for their approval that requires the COCA to account for the money.
But even so, Commissioners Curtis Richardson and Diane Williams Cox said they were reluctant to agree to the funding because there was no shortage of technical organizations in need, and agreeing to an additional request from the CAA would make it difficult to say no in the future.
“There will be other organizations that will look at this and say, ‘If COCA can get an extra $300,000, my organization didn’t get what we were asking for, so I’m going to come back and ask for 100% of what we wanted next,'” Richardson said. “How do we tell them no?”
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Mayor John Daley described it as a “one-time opportunity in federal dollars to complement what we do for arts organizations.”
Williams Cox has already worked with organizations looking to secure city funding, and said she wants the money to be allocated equitably to the organizations. She noted that there was $1.8 million in tourism funding from the TRA to reconsider after the recipient, TLH Arts, abandoned a project to develop a performing arts center.
more:TLH Arts funds may be transferred as it joins Northwood’s proposal for a performing arts center
“I’m working with some community organizations that are going to ask for money, not this year,” she said. “But, if we do this here, it sets a precedent for which you will be called upon.”
After the meeting, CACA celebrated the decision and pushed an email saying that “your votes and your invitation made the difference.”
“My gratitude to the hundreds of artists, arts and culture supporters, organizations and businesses who have asked our commissioners to say YES to fund community arts,” Spehar wrote in a Facebook post.
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