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Mayor Bowsers FY16 Budget Proposal for the Arts and Humanities


Two weeks ago Mayor Bowser submitted her budget proposal to the DC City Council. It was the result of extensive consultation, and is clearly well considered. The proposal includes essentially level funding for the arts and humanities (if President Obama’s proposed $1 million transfer is maintained through to the federal budget’s signature.) Download the Mayor’s FY 16 budget proposal here.

There are three areas of concern.

The mayor’s budget proposal will combine the Office of Film with the Office of Cable Television. There may be administrative efficiencies in that change. Of concern is that the proposal removes the existing Film Tax Credit program ($4 million was available FY 15; $0 proposed FY 16.) Traditionally, major productions film in DC for 2 to 5 days, using our monuments and museums as backdrops, with all major sections filmed elsewhere. There is no need to incentivize those productions. A film tax credit program available to productions filming in DC for two weeks or more would help sustain jobs in this important local industry.

The budget (still, as ever) is not transparent about funding for the actual granting programs. The DC Advocates for the Arts exists in no small part to advocate for the funds in granting programs. Why are granting programs still not visible in the budget? Granting programs are *the* critical support for local artists and arts organizations, and underwrite arts education opportunities for DC students. The budget shows only five areas of expenditure: Arts Building Communities, DC Creates Public Art, Arts Learning and Outreach (including Arts Learning for Youth and Lifelong Learning), Administration, and Agency Management. Since there are less than fifteen granting programs (anyway), it should be possible for local artists to see in the budget proposal how total numbers add up from the actual granting programs. It’s not clear why the budget (still) isn’t transparent to local artists (and policymakers) in that way. And it’s not clear from the budget proposal whether HumanitiesDC, presumably still under-funded, have gotten their long-delayed and well-deserved increase.

The FY 16 budget proposal is a 12 billion dollar spending plan that includes critical investments in homeless services, neighborhood facilities, and education. The budget proposal does not increase funding for the arts and humanities. The planned $14.6 million arts and humanities local fund investment (down from 15.6 million in local funds FY15) should be increased by arts and humanities allies in the City Council.

– Robert Bettmann