The 2022-2023 budget that Owensboro city commissioners are likely to approve next week includes significant funding for arts organizations in the area, such as the RiverPark Center, the Museum of Fine Arts and the Museum of science and history, and funds to pay for utilities at the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame and Museum.
In total, the proposed budget allocates $816,930 to 10 arts groups, an increase of $31,373 over the current fiscal year.
For example, the proposed budget allocates $177,000 to the RiverPark Center, $211,000 to the Owensboro Symphony Orchestra, $167,000 to the Museum of Fine Arts, both for operations and capital replacement, and $162,900 $ at the Museum of Science and History.
The budget also includes $62,000 for bluegrass museum utilities, $23,800 for Friday After 5, $35,0766 for Theater Workshop of Owensboro, $24,300 for Western Kentucky Botanical Garden, $2,782 for Black Expo and 11 $000 for Owensboro Dance Theater. An additional $26,700 is set aside for “agency maintenance” in the budget.
Commissioners and Mayor Tom Watson said this week that the city benefits from arts organizations both by drawing people to the city for events and by providing a ‘quality of life’ that cities of similar size do not have. .
“They’re an invaluable part of economic development,” Watson said.
Commissioner Bob Glenn said the arts groups “preserve our community’s history and share it with future generations.”
Through arts groups, “young people come into contact with culture for the first time,” Glenn said. “It’s a huge benefit to connect our youth to the arts.
Organizations like the RiverPark Center and the Owensboro Symphony draw people to the city for concerts and events, Glenn said.
“It draws people from all over the area, filling hotel rooms and restaurants,” Glenn said.
Curator Jeff Sanford said arts organizations like the Museum of Fine Art or the Western Kentucky Botanical Garden attract business leaders.
In terms of events, the arts “make a lot of money” for the city, Sanford said.
“For a city our size having these things we have, we’re pretty blessed, in my opinion,”
said Sanford. Later, says Sanford, “it’s a bit like parks. The parks are subsidized by the government, because it is the quality of life.
Pro Tem Mayor Larry Maglinger also said arts groups provide “quality of life” for residents, through “education and entertainment.”
“I think that’s something that’s a benefit to the community,” Maglinger said.
But, Maglinger said, arts organizations don’t run on government money alone.
“They have to fundraise so they can survive,” Maglinger said. “The city fund keeps them going, but they have to fundraise themselves.”
Commissioner Mark Castlen said the arts are important “to all cities”.
“It’s a way for people to express themselves and show their heritage,” Castlen said.
Castlen added that the arts are an outlet for young people.
“It keeps them involved,” Castlen said.
“It’s amazing that a city our size has an art museum with the quality of shows it puts on,” Castlen said.
The city’s new budget also includes $453,404 in funding for social service agencies, particularly the United Way. The city allocated $338,063 to Centraide in the 2022-23 budget. The city lets Centraide determine how the city’s contribution is distributed.
United Way volunteers who assess applications for funding from social service agencies and “provide a deeper review than city staff can,” City Manager Nate Pagan said.
“It worked well,” Pagan said. “We don’t have the staff to evaluate agencies with the same depth.”
Watson said commissioners will have a working session in June where they will discuss funding for social services.
“Some of us are interested in doing a little more for social services,” Watson said.
Any future funding for social services would not come at the expense of arts funding, Watson said.
“You can hardly cut back on what you do with the arts,” Watson said.
Watson said part of the social services discussion will include information about how the United Way assesses funding applications. During a budget work session, Watson said he noted that the Daniel Pitino shelter only received a small amount of funding from the United Way, and that was because the donations were specifically for the shelter.
“These are the same (agencies) that get attention every year, and very rarely do you get a new one on the list,” Watson said.
Glenn said there is a difference between funding arts groups and nonprofit social service groups.
“Nonprofits have access to grants and fundraisers” that arts organizations don’t, Glenn said.
Although arts groups raise money, “I think it’s a little more difficult for the arts to raise money,” Glenn said. “I think that’s why we have this gap” between municipal funds for the arts and funds for social service groups.
“Just because of the amount of nonprofits, you couldn’t fund them at the same level” as the arts, Glenn said.
Sanford said of funding social services, “we have to pay attention to that as well,”
“I think the mayor is saying, and I agree with him, that we need to pay attention to more of these social agencies,” Sanford said.
Castlen said of social services funding, “I would like to see a little bump in there. I think there are areas where we are lacking. Social services (have) taken a hit during COVID” in funding, and that “things are more expensive”.
Maglinger said of social service groups, “These are as important to me as anything the city funds. I look forward to discussing what we can do, and if we can do more.
James Mayse, 270-691-7303, [email protected], Twitter: @JamesMayse