A select committee made up of State Representatives and State Senators have been racing against the clock to get a state budget hammered out. The goal is to cut the billions needed in order to make the budget balance, without obliterating funding for education, public safety, roads, regulatory agencies and medical services. Basically, they have been trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. The only way to make that work is to shave some of the corners off. The Texas Commission on the Arts was one of the agencies that got a trim this week.
The Conference Committee on the state budget (House Bill 1) has agreed to go with the Senate’s proposal for funding TCA. If you remember from Part 1 of this series, what that means is that the Commission will see a 50 percent reduction in its budget and a 30 percent reduction in its staff. While these cuts will mean considerable changes at the Texas Commission on the Arts, this funding package is far softer than what the House was proposing. Under the House version of the budget, TCA would have closed its doors sometime in 2012.
When we spoke to TCA’s Executive Director Gary Gibbs about the funding level that is now in the budget, he said that agencies receiving grants from the Commission should expect a 50 percent decrease in grant amounts during the next two year cycle. That is to say, if a theater company received $5,000 from the TCA last time, it can expect to see $2,500 next go around. However, that scenario is based on the presumption that everyone who applied for funding last year will be cleared for funding again. It also assumes that everyone who applied last year will apply again. That may not be the case.
Some organizations may not think it is worth it to go through the grant process only to receive what some companies would consider to be a small amount money. That is what the city of Dallas’s Cultural Affairs Office is assuming.
As of this week, the city of Dallas is estimating a potential $59 million budget gap. That number came about after $20 million in cuts were proposed at City Hall on Wednesday. One of the proposals is to trim 25 percent, or $750,540, from the City of Dallas Office of Cultural Affairs’ Cultural Services Contracts. Those contracts are essentially city arts grants that currently go to 73 nonprofit organizations. The Cultural Affairs Office administrators expect to lose between 5 and 10 of those agencies during the next budget cycle, because they do not believe all of the organizations will think it is worth their while to apply.
This week, there will be a public hearing on the city of Dallas’s budget. The next stop for the state’s budget is Governor Rick Perry’s desk.
◊ Editor's Note: This is part 2 of a series of stories on the impending arts cuts. Part 1, about what's happening with the Texas Commission on the Arts and includes info on how to contact state representatives and senators, is here. Part 2, about the effect on local organizations, is here. We'll keep you updated through the process. We also encourage you to comment below.