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NPR Arts & Life

Task Force Recommends Dedicated Tax Funding For Arts Institutions


For years Charlotte’s cultural institutions have faced a stark problem.

Admissions and ticket sales aren’t paying the bills. And donations, big and small, often don’t make up the difference.

So city and county officials put together a task force to come up with suggestions on how to keep the arts afloat in our area.

After more than a year of work, the Cultural Life Task Force has released its recommendations.

It’s not just small institutions that are facing financial problems, it includes some of the best known in the city, says Valecia McDowell.

"Charlotte City Ballet, Discovery Place, The Mint Museum, The Gant, The Levine Museum of History..."

McDowell is co-chair of the task force. And the financial gap the group found is significant.

"About $8 million a year is missing from the sector. And that’s a huge number. I mean it’s not 8 million dollars one year it's $8 million year after year after year."

So the task force is recommending a two pronged approach to make cultural funding more sustainable.

First, companies and private donors are being asked again dig into their bank accounts. The fund-raising goal is $45 million over 9 nine years.

Second, the task force is asking the city and county to up their contributions as well too the tune of just over $1 million a year from Charlotte, and $1.3 million from Mecklenburg county. And their asking smaller towns in the area to chip in, too.

The task force wants some of that money to come from Charlotte-Mecklenburg schools. In 2007, CMS cut funding for field trips to arts institutions. Those trips are now funded by private donations.

"We cannot, as a community, continue to come back to the city and county  year after year and say we need emergency funding for stabilization forever," McDowell says.

So the task force is also recommending a long-term solution, a referendum this fall for a tax that would go to funding arts and science in the area. 

And the County Commission is expected to vote Tuesday night to put a quarter-cent sales tax hike on the November ballot that would give the Arts and Sciences council about $3 million dollars a year.