Proposed Augusta budget eliminates Arts Council funding

By: Domonique Benn
By: Domonique Benn

August 25, 2006

The money several organizations get from the city is on the chopping block.

City Administrator Fred Russell says the cuts are necessary in order to balance next year's budget.

For some of these organizations, it's a tough pill to swallow.

It's one of the easiest budgets to cut, but Augusta Arts Council Executive Director Brenda Durant says the city's funding is one-third of the council's operating costs and is vital to festivals like Arts in the Heart.

"We had asked for funding this year for administration of the Arts Council and for the city to support a re-granting program where they would distribute funds through the Arts Council to local arts organizations, and they have put a zero next to each of those," Durant said.

Russell says dramatic cuts are necessary if the city plans to not raise taxes or reach into the city's reserve funds.

"The recommendation this year is to cut the money out totally for those functions,” he said. “They are not necessities, although they are wonderful things."

Durant has asked the city for $105,000 for operating expenses and $200,000 to re-grant organizations like the Augusta Ballet.

And now it could be a sprain for the cultural arm of the city.

"People think of the arts as the hair bow on top of the little girls' hair instead of the belt that's holding everything together," Durant said.

While nothing's final, the next few weeks will bring tough decisions.

"You've got to weigh do you lose the Sheriff's Department or do you lose Arts in the Heart? Which choice do you basically make?" Russell said.

"The city will have to decide--all those things worthwhile to us, are they valuable or do we just say go away?" said Durant.

Russell says budget workshops will be held over the next few weeks and that's when the Arts Council will get to pitch how valuable they are to the city.

The first budget workshop will be held next Wednesday at 3 o'clock.

The Transportation Department will make a presentation for commissioners and make a case for why they should be spared from budget cuts.

Transportation is looking at losing a million dollars in the proposed cuts; the sheriff's department a million and a half. The Arts Council funding would be sliced $300,000.

Recreation and Parks stands to lose three quarters of a million dollars…which would mean more performances canceled if Riverwalk Special Events loses funding.

Mailing Address: P.O. Box 1212 Augusta, GA 30903 Main Telephone: (803) 278-1212 Newsroom: (803) 278-3111 Fax: (803) 442-4561
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