Fort Worth Passes Budget, Cuts Arts Council

Council to Look At Other Funding Sources For Arts

By Chris Van Horne
|  Tuesday, Sep 18, 2012  |  Updated 7:06 PM CDT
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Despite protest from arts supporters, Fort Worth's newly approved budget includes cuts in funding.

Chris Van Horne, Fort Worth Reporter

Despite protest from arts supporters, Fort Worth's newly approved budget includes cuts in funding.

After impassioned pleas from the arts community, the City of Fort Worth passed its budget this morning, which included a major cut to the Fort Worth Arts Council.

In total the city budget is $1.4 billion. City leaders had to close a $49.6 million deficit, which they did by using one-time excess funds totaling roughly $40 million and by making $9 million in cuts. The budget of Fort Worth Arts Council was cut by approximately $266,000, or 25-percent of their total.

But the arts council did receive a big positive Tuesday, as the city council said it will look at more permanent and alternative ways to fund the program and several others that were cut to balance the budget. Currently the programs come out of the general fund which often leads them to up and down funding.

"You know sometimes you have to lose the battle to win the war," said arts council president Jody Ulich, summing up the day.

Arts supporters were armed with t-shirts and pleas to the council again on Tuesday. The arts council funds local theaters, shows and arts organizations, including helping the Fort Worth Opera.

"But if the city stops supporting them, they'll no longer be able to generate tax revenue and make the city attractive to business, tourists and even our citizens," said Fort Worth Opera general director Darren Woods.

The arts community says its taken its fair share of cuts in recent years and contributes too much to the local economy to keep being cut. A recent analysis shows the arts and culture bring the city around $80 million a year.

Despite the wave of public support, the council voted eight to one in favor of the cuts with Councilman Joel Burns the lone no vote. Burns did not like how the process this year and was not comfortable with some of the cuts. It's a decision an emotional councilman, Danny Scarth, says didn't come lightly

"Please know that the decisions that we make are thoughtful, they're painful, they're real," Scarth said.

But Councilman Sal Espino made it clear, all is not lost for the arts. Espino had tried to restore funding with a compromise, but said he was one vote short. Instead he offered this to arts supporters.

"Rest assured we will continue to find a dedicated revenue stream for the arts and we will look at mid-year to see if there's a way to restore the 25-percent cut," Espino said during the meeting.

It's not exactly what the arts supporters wanted to hear, but Ulich says it's a start.

"The positive part is they're talking about permanent funding for the arts," she said.

Mayor Betsy Price says the organizations cut still receive a fair amount of funding from the city and that she hopes in 30 days to start looking at that alternative funding source.

"We need to take a hard look at how do we fund them and come up with some alternative revenue streams that will keep it steady," Price said.

Price called the budget fair, as it doesn't raise taxes or cut city services. There will be minimal, if any layoffs in this budget. The Code Compliance Department will gain two positions and the police department will receive some additional victim assistance positions. New radios for police and a new fire/police training center are also in this fiscal year 2013 budget.

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