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Fri, Sept. 20

Money forarts in holding pattern<BR><I>Escapes possible cut by councilors, for now</I>

PRESCOTT – The arts community will have to wait at least another week or two to learn whether it will receive a share of the $30,000 that the Prescott City Council allocated during recent budget deliberations.

In a virtual repeat of the discussion that they had on the arts contributions in December, several council members again balked at the amount of money the city was proposing for the arts.

In the discussion in late 2003, the council ultimately cut its contributions in half – from the allocated $20,000 to $10,000.

This week, council members initially appeared to be taking the same route, when Councilman Bob Roecker made a motion to cut the allocations by more than half – from the $27,000 that the Prescott Area Arts and Humanities Council (PAAHC) had proposed down to $13,000.

Only Councilwoman Mary Ann Suttles joined Roecker on that, and the motion died in a 2-4 vote.

That led the council to try another motion – to approve PAAHC's recommendation to award about $27,000 of the $30,000 in the city budget to 10 different arts organizations. Although a closer vote, that motion died as well, on a 3-3 vote. On a tie vote, the motion is defeated.

City Attorney John Moffitt said the city could bring the matter back for another vote after Councilman John Steward, who was absent from the meeting, returns.

Contributions to the performing arts have long been a point of contention for the Prescott City Council. Through the years, a number of policies on how and whether to award the money have come and gone.

This past year, the council agreed to try a new approach by tapping PAAHC to help with the recommendations. But last year, the first year of the new policy, the council objected to PAAHC's recommendation to award the entire $20,000 that the city had allocated and ultimately decided to cut the amount in half.

That left $10,000 still in last year's budget. With the $20,000 for the current fiscal year, the total in this year's budget was $30,000 – the number that PAAHC used in this year's recommendations.

A memo to the city from the organization explained that PAAHC received applications from 13 entities for city money. The five-member PAAHC committee, which consisted of representatives from various arts groups, as well as the Prescott Chamber of Commerce and the Prescott Area Coalition for Tourism, ranked each of the requests on creative quality, tourism impact, community benefit, and effective management and budget.

The group recommended that city money go to: Phippen Museum Western Art Show; the Arizona Shakespeare Festival; Prescott Book Festival; Prescott Bluegrass Festival; The M.A.D. Linguist; Faces of Poverty – Telling our Story; Hassayampa Institute of Creative Writing; Artist in Residence Program; Art the 4th Dimension; Fifth Annual Sunflower Festival.

A number of arts advocates attended Tuesday's meeting to make a case for the city contributions. John Tannous of PAAHC, for instance, pointed out that the organization has devoted hundreds of hours to evaluating the various grant applications to ensure that "they are worthy of city funding."

Others pointed out that most of the people involved with the various groups are volunteers who do not benefit financially from the city contributions.

But Roecker, Suttles and Councilman Jim Lamerson all had a problem with awarding the $27,000. Lamerson, who voted against the 2003 allocation of $10,000 as well, said he opposed devoting public money to private endeavors. And Roecker maintained that the city money should be a "stipend" that is not on-going, but rather temporary assistance to get a program off its feet.

Mayor Rowle Simmons voiced strong objections to awarding only half the money again this year, however.

"These people have gone out, worked, and done due diligence," Simmons said. "For us to say we're going to cut (the amount) in half, that's not right. It goes against the process we have set up."

Contact the reporter at cbarks@prescottaz.com

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