CMS students won’t be going to the museums this year, at least not on the Arts and Science Council’s dime, and a fund-raising shortfall is the culprit.
First, the good news. The Arts and Science Council raised $13 million in its fund drive. That’s $500,000 more than last year.
But more than half of that money is earmarked for specific projects. For unrestricted projects, the ASC had a goal of $6.9 million. It came up $800,000 short. It’s the hardest money to raise, says ASC President Robert Bush. “These are the dollars that actually pay the heat and the light bill, that actually pay the janitorial bills and those things,” he says, and for field trips for all CMS third, sixth and 7th-graders to venues such as Discovery Place and Blumenthal Performing Arts. The ASC spent $263,000 on this program last year. This year, it will be zero. The ASC also trimmed grants for festivals by 25 percent, including First Night and Festival in the Park.
But grants for the 22 organizations the ASC supports will remain the same as last year – the first time that’s happened since the recession. The ASC had cut these grants by 41 percent the previous five years.
A quarter-cent hike in Mecklenburg County’s sales tax up that’s on the November ballot would help the ASC. If approved, 7.5% of the proceeds would go to the Arts and Science Council.
But state legislators are moving forward with a bill that would cap local sales taxes at 2.5 percent. That would effectively kill the referendum. Bush wouldn’t discuss the topic at length because he says the ASC’s board hasn’t discussed it.
“It’s an opportunity that we think is interesting, but, you know, we haven’t taken a stand one way or the other,” he explains.
The sales tax cap has passed the Senate. The House Finance Committee takes it up Wednesday.