Problems in the Mayor’s FY15 Budget Proposal

Experienced advocates for the arts will remember that within last year’s budget, Ward 2 Councilmember Jack Evans (and the Council) nested a dedicated funding mechanism for the Arts for fiscal years 2015- 2017.  The mechanism would allocate a percentage of the collected sales tax, up to $20 million per year, to the DC Commission on the Arts and Humanities.

We thought that was a great proposal for several reasons. The funding level of $20 million is good, but just as important, the mechanism would have stabilized arts funding in the District.

Funding for the city’s agency for the arts and humanities was cut five times in four years –from over $14 million to under $4 million– between 2009 and 2012. Councilmember Evans and arts leaders in the City Council — including Jim Graham, Marion Barry, David Grosso, Anita Bonds, and Kenyan McDuffie — have increased arts funding from the Mayor’s terrible proposals each of the last three years. But we’re still fighting for stable funding.

Stable funding is essential to any conversation on funding priorities. Because the total budget number has ricocheted around year to year, the granting programs offered by the DCCAH to support arts in DC have been changed on-the-fly each year for the last several years. The UpStart program, while retained in name, has been gutted; the Festival granting panel was collapsed into the City Arts panel; the Hip Hop Theater panel was eliminated; the Young Artists granting panel was eliminated; there is still no Humanities support.

It’s impossible, as Advocates, to engage in substantive conversation about priorities while funding –on the whole– is shaky. Our first priority as an organization is to ensure adequate funding for the arts community in DC. As funding is stabilized, policymakers can substantively consider whether or not “X” or “Y” funding program is a relative policy priority within the arts and humanities budget.

The law included in the final FY14 budget proposal, drafted by Councilmember Evans, would have stabilized funding for FY 15, 16 and 17. The mayor’s budget proposal, while including an increase from the FY14 budget, decreased the total funding level, and eliminated the dedicated sales tax allocation, eliminating stable year to year funding for the DCCAH.

To see this for yourself, click here to download the Mayor’s FY15 budget proposal.  See pg 91 (of 298) to see the dedication allocation, and explanation of reversal on Pg 92.  See page 157 to see the recent year’s allocations, showing the $3.9mil local in 2012, and our big win, the increase to $11.1 mil in 2013.  See page 253 for the proposed increase in FY15 local funds to $14.6 mill. While we’ve lost the dedicated sales tax allocation ($20 million for Fy15 to Fy17), the Mayor has proposed a one time increase to $14.6 mil to replace it.

See page 275 for the budget narrative summary: “(11) Commission on Arts and Humanities. –$16,460,000 (including $14,603,000 from local funds, $658,000 from Federal grant funds, $200,000 from other funds, and $1,000,000 from funds previously appropriated from this Act, under the heading “Federal Payment for D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities Grants”, to fund competitively awarded grants for nonprofit fine and performing arts organizations based in and primarily serving the District); provided, that all funds deposited into the Special Purpose Revenue Fund are, without regard to fiscal year, authorized for expenditure and shall remain available until expended;…”

To see what’s been funding in the last few years out of the current granting panels, download the DCCAH payments here:

FY 12 DCCAH payments
FY 13 DCCAH payments
FY 14 DCCAH payments