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Arts & Culture

ASC Requests $2.3 Million From Meck County

Sarah Delia

The Arts and Science Council requested $2.3 million from the Mecklenburg County Commission. The money would fund arts and science education programs. But some commissioners were not impressed with how the request was made. WFAE's Sarah Delia reports.

The Arts and Science Council’s executive director, Robert Bush did what you would expect anyone in his position to do when requesting money. He spoke of the ASC’s history, programs, and overall mission.

And then one word changed the tone of the conversation:

“And we have not received any funding for general programmatic purposes from Mecklenburg County since fiscal year '11 and that only $75,000 that year.”

That word only seemed to stay with several commissioners throughout the rest of the presentation. Commissioner Pat Cotham wasn’t impressed.

"I kind of cringed in the beginning when you said you only got $75,000 from us. $75,000 is a lot of tax dollars and I’m sorry it wasn’t what you wanted. I know there were a lot of groups who would have killed for 10 percent of that," said Cotham. 

The ASC would use some of the funds for orchestra programs. But Cotham was concerned middle school bands were excluded from the proposal. A sentiment echoed by Commissioner Vilma Leake.

The budget request was borne out of recommendations made last year by the Cultural Life Task Force, a group appointed to help come up with solutions to fund the arts. The Task Force recommended the $2.3 million for the coming fiscal year to help fund educational programs in schools as well as outreach programs to make the arts more accessible to kids.

Mecklenburg County voters overwhelmingly rejected a quarter-cent sales tax hike in November that would have given a small portion to the Arts and Science Council.

Valecia McDowell who co-chaired the task force says she expected a lot of questions from the commissioners.

"Whenever you’re asking for tax payer dollars, I think you should expect a lot of questions and so we go in expecting a lot of questions. But I’m confident we’ll be able to answer those questions. Hopefully, the community will get behind these proposals," said McDowell.

The next step, she says, is to take in the feedback from the commissioners, who at the end of the day, want the same thing the Arts and Science Council does: to support a growing art community in Charlotte.