Arts funding maintained in proposed city budget

August 23, 2010

The Indianapolis arts community again is breathing a collective sigh of relief after learning the city is not expected to reduce its funding in 2011.

Mayor Greg Ballard is scheduled to present his 2011 budget proposal to the City-County Council at 7 p.m. Monday. The $1.1 billion plan calls for cutting $22 million in local spending next year by eliminating a police recruit class and by cutting raises for firefighters and police. Also, road and street repairs would be paid for through sewer rates instead of tax dollars.

If approved, the city budget will allocate $1 million to local arts programs—the same amount they received in both 2009 and 2010.

Given the impact the economic downturn has had on municipal finances—income tax revenue in Marion County is down $50 million from what was budgeted for this year—the fact that the city is maintaining arts funding illustrates its commitment to the programs, City Controller David Reynolds said.

“It does show that arts are important to the community,” he said. “We’re attempting to make [Indianapolis] not only an affordable city but a livable city as well, and that includes the arts.”

Still, local arts groups received twice as much in local funding as recently as 2008. The city contributed $1.54 million, and another $600,000 came from Marion County's Capital Improvement Board. But CIB has suspended its annual grants for arts and tourism because of its own financial struggles.

City funding is distributed to the Arts Council of Indianapolis Inc., which helps to reallocate the money to more than 50 organizations, ranging from Dance Kaleidoscope to Freetown Village Inc., an African-American living-history museum.

City officials have been working with the Arts Council to develop alternative sources of funding for arts organizations beyond the city's general fund. In the Aug. 18 edition of IBJ's "Leading Questions" video series, Arts Council President and CEO Dave Lawrence discussed his hopes for continued support from the city in the 2011 budget and beyond.

The city parks department also could emerge unscathed from the proposed budget. The department is expected to receive $21.1 million in 2011, the same amount it received this year.

“A strong, vibrant parks department is important to the community,” Reynolds said. “You need open green spaces and programs for children.”

Even with the cuts in local spending, the city will tap its $17.5 million rainy day fund to help cover the $50 million revenue decrease, said Reynolds, who described the 2011 budget as “tight.”


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