August 14, 2012

Fort Worth arts advocates resist planned cuts in city funding

Art expert from Washington speaks at breakfast, lunch and to the City Council in an afternoon briefing, urging no cuts in arts funding.

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FORT WORTH -- Arts supporters continue to press their case that their "industry" generates economic benefits for the city, jamming two meetings Tuesday, distributing "talking points" and urging patrons to call City Council members to try to avert a proposed 25 percent cut in city funding to the Arts Council of Fort Worth & Tarrant County.

"We get a healthier economy, we get a healthier child, we get a healthier community," said Randy Cohen, vice president of research at Americans for the Arts in Washington, D.C., during a breakfast before 350 people at Will Rogers Memorial Center.

Cohen detailed the results of a new national study by his group showing that the arts generated at least $84.4 million in economic activity in Fort Worth in 2010. That figure was based on responses of 40 of the 99 arts organizations that answered the survey, and included no estimates for the organizations that didn't respond, Cohen said.

Cohen and the arts council made an afternoon presentation to City Council members.

Cohen said the study showed 24 percent of people attending arts events in Fort Worth come from outside Tarrant County.

The arts council is asking the City Council to consider using part of a $10 million surplus in the city's Culture & Tourism Fund, funded in part by hotel taxes, to maintain funding to the arts council. The Culture & Tourism surplus is already earmarked for improvements at Will Rogers and the Fort Worth Convention Center.

At the afternoon meeting, Councilman Sal Espino spoke in favor of establishing a dedicated city funding stream to the Arts Council, instead of funding it out of the general fund, to sidestep annual budget-cutting pressure.

He asked the city attorney for a second opinion on whether it would be permissible to use revenues from the car rental tax, which also flow into the Culture & Tourism fund, for the arts.

The city's proposed $583 million general fund budget would cut $266,564 from the Arts Council's budget, leaving $799,691. The arts council uses the money to make grants, most recently to 43 organizations last year.

Gas leases approved

Tuesday night, the council approved natural gas leases agreements for Z Boaz and Trinity parks.

Chesapeake Energy agreed to pay a $1,250 per acre lease bonus and 25 percent royalty to the city for Z Boaz rights. The city owns 60 percent of the mineral rights to the 140-acre west side park. XTO Energy has agreed to pay a lease bonus of $3,045 per acre and 25 percent royalty for 155.3 acres of Trinity Park.

Scott Nishimura, 817-390-7808

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