The city of Dallas is working with its biggest budget of all time — $2.81 billion — but very little of that will go to to arts funding.
In the proposed 2015 budget, the Office of Cultural Affairs would receive $17.1 million, an increase of less than one percent over the current year.
“Budgets are an expression of values,” City Councilman Phillip Kingston said during a cultural affairs budget briefing Monday. “The arts are lagging here. I find that utterly unacceptable. I do not intend to let that go final.”
Most of the city’s hotel occupancy and alcohol taxes go to the convention center, Kingston says. The Office of Cultural Affairs receives about 3 percent.
“The arts generate a whole lot of stays in local hotels,” Kingston says, and they should receive more of the tax revenues.
Cultural affairs plans to spend $300,000 more than the current year on contracts including the community artists program, plus $155,000 to hire a manager to oversee and maintain public art.
Office of Cultural Affairs director Maria Munoz Blanco told Kingston she would like to have an additional $600,000 to pay for theater and custodial equipment, if the money was available. Kingston says arts advocates have asked the budget to be bumped up by another $175,000.
“I think that’s shooting too low,” he said.
Most of the overall budget for cultural affairs comes from private donations, which total about $140 million a year, or more than eight times the city’s funding.
“The people of Dallas come up with a large part of our arts funding,” City Councilwoman Jennifer Gates said. “But they’re not going to do it if they don’t think we’re behind it and that we’re being responsible.”