Though he had to address an overall city budget deficit of $49 million, Mayor Kevin Faulconer‘s proposed spending plan for the fiscal year that begins July 1 keeps arts funding relatively stable, which came as a relief Thursday to community stakeholders.
The proposed budget earmarks $14.5 million for arts funding, a 2 percent reduction from $14.6 million in the current spending plan. The figure, in line with other city department cuts, stands in stark contrast to last year’s proposed budget, which slashed arts funding by 31 percent and drew protests from San Diego’s cultural communities.
Alan Ziter, co-chair of the San Diego Regional Arts and Culture Coalition, which participated in protests last year, doesn’t expect any backlash this time around.
“Our message to the council will be to support the mayor’s budget,” he said. “Knowing all of the background discussion leading up to the budget, there was the potential for as much as another 31 percent proposed cut, so to see what I would call a fair share 2 percent cut is a relief.”
Joyce Gattas, fine arts dean at San Diego State University, also supports the proposal.
“This budget ensures San Diego will continue to be a premier arts and culture destination for residents and visitors alike,” she said.
San Diego’s arts and culture industry generates $1.1 billion in annual economic activity and supports 35,914 full-time equivalent jobs, according to a study by Washington, D.C.-based Americans for the Arts.
Arts and culture nonprofits apply each fall for city funding, which supports performances, exhibits, parades and festivals. The San Diego Commission for Arts and Culture awarded nearly $12 million to 133 organizations during fiscal year 2018; funding comes from a hotel tax.
Apart from often paying for basic operations –“funds that keep the doors open,” Ziter said — city money is vital to securing matching grants from other organizations, and vice versa.
Ziter said city arts grants are contingent upon matches from local and national groups.
“Say we get a $100,000 grant, I need to find another $300,000 somewhere else to get my money from the city. Checks are not written until matching funds are secured,” he said. “Every cut the city makes, well that’s a significant cut that needs to be matched and leveraged from private sources.”
Cuts can be especially problematic for venues and organizers that book acts or exhibits a year or two in advance. Practically, cuts typically result in fewer free programs, fewer school programs and shortened hours at arts facilities.
Ziter is also executive director of NTC Foundation, which operates cultural events at Liberty Station, including the Friday Night Liberty monthly art walk. He said the event runs, in part, on city money.
“We want people to enjoy the free performances, and the money we get from the city helps to pay our costs,” Ziter said.
Faulconer will present his proposed budget to the City Council at 2 p.m. Monday. The council will hold all-day public hearings for each department’s proposed budget in May.
–City New Service
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