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Texas budget deficit could lead to funding cuts for the arts

By APRILL BRANDON
Dec. 25, 2010 at 6:25 a.m.


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As the 82nd Texas Legislative Session begins this January, one of the biggest issues on the table is trying to balance the budget.

Concern is growing that Texas' budget shortfall might result in cuts in funding to the arts, said Gaye Greever McElwain, director of marketing and communications for the Texas Commission on the Arts.

"The concern isn't just for the arts, but for all Texas agencies. Texas is facing a major deficit," she added. "We won't know anything for sure, though, until the comptroller releases the numbers, so everything is speculation right now. But it does look like there will be a need for reductions across the board."

The commission has sent a Legislative Appropriations Request to receive no budget increase, but for a continuation of the agency's current level of funding. The biggest issue is that the funding source for the commission's budget comes from the General Revenue fund, which has been hit the hardest by the state's budget shortfall, according to the commission's winter newsletter.

In the Crossroads, both the Victoria Symphony and the Victoria Bach Festival regularly apply for and receive grant money from the Texas Commission on the Arts for their various programs. If state funding to the commission is reduced, it may affect how much, if any, the two organizations receive in the next two years.

While nothing is certain yet, government funding for the arts is of the utmost importance, especially in tough economic times, Victoria Bach Festival managing director Nina Di Leo said. Many non-profit organizations rely on a mix of funding sources, ranging from individual and corporation donations to grants, and when companies and individuals aren't able to give as much, the organizations end up relying more on government funding, she added.

"In a year when giving is down, the government can help keep doors open and keep arts organizations healthy," Di Leo said. "I hope people can recognize the arts as a source of comfort and inspiration, particularly in times of economic hardship. In fact, people almost need the arts more during hard times, but, at the same time, it's harder for the organizations to provide those experiences."

Michelle Hall, director of the Victoria Symphony, agreed that keeping the arts alive is important at all times and has positive repercussions on individual communities.

"The arts are vital in a community. From the standpoint of the city, a healthy cultural environment reflects a healthy city. It not only draws cultural tourists to the area, but has an impact on the economy related to the events, such as restaurants, gas stations and retail stores," she added.

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