UPDATE: AJC Fulton County reporter David Wickert reports in Friday’s Metro section (find the full story on the AJC’s subscriber site, myajc.com)…
With a deadline fast approaching, Fulton County commissioners still haven’t made tough budget decisions affecting library hours, meals for seniors and funding for Grady Memorial Hospital.
Commissioners are weighing millions of dollars in cuts to those and popular services against a property tax hike that could anger many residents as well as state lawmakers who say Fulton can’t raise taxes under a new state law.
On Wednesday commissioners discussed their options but were noncommittal about how they’ll balance their 2014 budget. Under state law, they have until the end of the month. They’ll meet again Monday to try to reach a consensus. …
Commissioners have heard plenty from advocates for various programs. … On Wednesday advocates for the arts asked commissioners to restore $1.5 million in proposed cuts….
By Howard Pousner / firstname.lastname@example.org
Exactly five months after Fulton County commissioners rejected a proposal to trim its $1.48 million in arts grants by nearly a third to help pay for jail space for female prisoners, the arts are facing more cuts.
At a county budget hearing at 10 a.m. Wednesday, Fulton commissioners will take public feedback on a proposed cut of more 30 percent to Fulton County Arts & Culture’s budget.
Fulton budgeted $5.08 million for the arts in fiscal 2013. The proposed amount for fiscal 2014 is $3.62 million.
Three Fulton-based theaters appear to be leading the charge to rally arts supporters to send a no-cuts message commissioner and speak at the hearing at the Fulton County Government Center downtown: Horizon and Alliance theaters intown and Georgia Ensemble in Roswell.
With Georgia ranking near or at the bottom nationally among states in arts support for several years, there is much riding on Fulton’s funding, the largest investment in the arts in Georgia.
“Arts and culture impact our community in many positive ways — some of them economic, and some of them quality-of-life,” said an emailed alert sent by Georgia Ensemble to supporters Tuesday afternoon. “Funding from Fulton County supports not only performances and exhibitions, but educational programming.”
The theater said Fulton County’s support has helped underwrite its Theatre for Young Audiences programs that send performances into county schools and creates workshops to build literacy through theater.
“Loss of that funding would mean a reduction in the number of students we could reach,” the email said.
Horizon’s email to supporters claimed: “The dollars allocated to arts and culture institutions by the Fulton County Board of Commissioners are injected ten-fold right back into the local economy through job creation, sales tax, crime prevention, education and quality of life.”
Horizon quoted an unnamed survey that found that Fulton arts organizations generated $365 million in total revenues in 2011, the last year for which figures were available.
Fulton faced difficult budget decisions due to shortfalls throughout the recession, leading to a push by some politicians to reduce its footprint to “essential services.”
Arts groups and their supporters, of course, argue that the cultural investment is essential.