Concerns about city budget’s targeting of arts

The Wichita Arts Council has raised some worthy concerns about the city’s proposed 2014 budget, which the City Council expects to approve Tuesday. In a letter to City Council members, Arts Council chairwoman Sharon Fearey (a former City Council member herself) questioned the rationale for the proposed $104,000 cut to cultural funding and how the cuts would be made. “The philosophical concern about this issue is whether or not the arts can continue to be the economic driver and the tourist attractions that they currently are when their funding is cut back to 2012 levels,” Fearey wrote. She also questioned the proposed shifting of $500,000 of cultural funding maintenance from the tourism and convention fund to the general budget and the new expectation that CityArts’ cost recovery increase from 39 percent in 2012 to 50 percent by 2015 – which could mean higher fees and fewer classes, programs and jobs at the city-owned Old Town arts center. A closing thought in Fearey’s letter could apply to other parts of the city’s proposed budget: “We are concerned that the budget is being used to determine the future of our city instead of future goals and objectives being used to drive the budget process.”