Monday, February 15, 2010

Osceola County Funding APPROVED!

Monday, February 15, 2010 marked an evening of intense discussions regarding funding for the Osceola Center for the Arts at the Osceola County Commissioners evening meeting. After months of discussion and promises Center Board members and staff sat in to listen to the final outcome of it's request for operational funding in the amount of $200K which roughly covers the annual expense of it's employee salaries.

Board Chair, Atlee Mercer and Executive Director, Ed Moore opened the discussion with the importance of the Center's products to the community, education, economic development and tourism as well as it's 30 active programs which benefit children, adults and retired equally through out the year. Mercer mentioned that over his experience from this past weekend at the Osceola Art Festival, he had spoken to people from about 30 different states all of which were staying in local hotels for the weekend specifically for the art festival.

In response to the the question at hand regarding the request for $200K Commissioner Michael Hartford stated his disappointment that this had not been addressed during budgeting for the county's Tourist Development Tax and that it was clear to him that the need for the arts in any community is beneficial to education which although may not be obvious in the short term will certainly be visible in the county's future.

The county had been providing per capita funding for the Center for several years which had been taken away with out notice two years ago and by the end of 2009 the Center had been excluded from general revenue funding as well, which fulfills the needs of other Osceola County non-profits such as the Council on Aging as well as building and maintaining roads.

When asked about other funding possibilities Moore replied with plans to create a foundation in the future through selling a portion of the Center's property which is located on Hwy. 192 just east of the Turnpike and by requesting donations from other sources for the foundation to fund the Center with out government spending but that this would not be possible for a few more years. He added that the Center regularly seeks corporate sponsorships but that due to the economy those funds are also very slim.

Commissioner John "Q" QuiƱones pointed out that as an art agency which provides an additional benefit to our tourists and visitors the Center should not be included in general revenue at all, but that the funding should come from the Tourist Development Tax in agreement with Hartford and in line with funding provided for local museums such as the Osceola Historical Society.

Commissioner Ken Smith and Fred Hawkins were also in agreement, but before the vote was cast statements from Commissioner Brandon Arrington were to be heard. Arrington, the former Program's Director for the Center was opposed to funding the Center, despite his arts education and deep felt appreciation for the arts, he indicated that he could not justify funding for the arts when other non-profits in the area were being hit with major budget cuts and roads were not being built. QuiƱones rebutted with the fact that roads and other non-profits could not be funded through the Tourist Development tax due to state legislation, but that the arts can and should be a part of that budget.

In the end the Commission voted 4-1 in favor of providing the Center's request for funding for this year, with a warning that funds may not be available next year. To which Mercer replied 'Thank you and although we know that we will need funding next year, it will be less.'

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