This morning, the movers and shakers of Buffalo's increasingly well-organized cultural community gathered in the Buffalo and Erie County Naval and Military Park to formally endorse Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz's proposed 2013 budget. The response to the budget was, to put it midly, rosy. Here's a video of the press conference shot by our Joe Popiolkowski featuring short statements from Greater Buffalo Cultural Alliance co-chair Randall Kramer, Amherst Industrial Development Agency Executive Director James Allen and Arts Services Initiative Executive Director Tod A. Kniazuk:
Poloncarz's proposed budget -- summed up in this story by The News' Denise Jewell Gee -- includes $5.57 million for arts and cultural organizations, which represents an increase of $148,000 over last year's budget. It also funds 14 new organizations which have not received county funding in years past.
But Poloncarz has also directly tied the arts and library funding in his budget to a 3.4 percent property tax increase, thus increasing the chances that the arts may once again become a political football in the ensuing debate over the budget in the Erie County Legislature. From Gee's story, emphasis mine:
Without the tax increase, Poloncarz said, the county would have had to severely cut back on services such as libraries, arts and cultural funding and sheriff’s road patrols to make up for an $8 million deficit that remained after his staff trimmed vacant jobs and other budget lines.
During last year's heated debate over county cultural funding, one of many arguments the cultural community put forward was that tax increases were not necessary to continue or even increase cultural funding. The proposed tax increase, and the way Poloncarz has tied it directly to arts and library funding (along with other issues) complicates that narrative and gives the cultural community a tougher job in declaring its worth to Republican legislators, who are unhappy about the proposed increase, and the suburban taxpayers many of those legislators represent.
Look for more on this in my column next Sunday, Oct. 28.
taggedArt | Theater