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Arts funding maintained in city budget proposal

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The Indianapolis arts community is breathing a collective sigh of relief after learning that the city is not expected to reduce its funding in 2010.

The City-County Council will hear public comments tonight on Mayor Greg Ballard’s 2010 budget before voting on it Sept. 21. The $1.22 billion plan, which represents a 2-percent increase from this year, cuts spending for all city departments except public safety.
 
If approved, the city budget will allocate $1 million to local arts programs—the same amount in city funding they received this year. Arts community leaders had feared much worse, given the impact the economic downturn has had on municipal finances. Property-tax caps kicking in next year will further pressure city finances.

 “I think it’s very encouraging news,” said Dave Lawrence, acting president of the Arts Council of Indianapolis Inc. “I think that we are all supportive of [Mayor Ballard’s] efforts to keep arts in the budget.”

The Arts Council helps to reallocate city arts funding to more than 50 organizations, ranging from Dance Kaleidoscope to Freetown Village Inc., an African-American living history museum.
 
Lawrence is encouraging arts leaders to attend this evening’s meeting to voice their support for the proposed budget.
 
Two years ago, in the 2008 budget, local arts group received $2.15 million in local funding — $1.54 million from the city and the rest from the Capital Improvement Board. But the CIB decided to suspend its annual grants for arts and tourism during 2009 and 2010 because of its own financial struggles.
 
Lawrence said he appreciates the mayor’s efforts to support the arts in a tough economic environment.
 
“This has been a commitment of his since he came into office,” Lawrence said.
 
Also at tonight’s meeting, councilors are expected to vote on an ordinance restricting panhandling at major intersections in the city.
 
A vote to amend the city code to reduce the salaries of elected township assessors, whose major responsibilities were transferred to the county assessor following a 2008 referendum, is expected as well.

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