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Council tables arts grants

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Fifteen local art groups might not receive hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding from the city this year, as Carmel City Council members try to resolve a budget shortfall.

The council voted to table the more than $707,000 in grants for the time being after Councilor Eric Seidensticker raised objections, citing repaving concerns and the incomplete Illinois Street project.

The day after the meeting, Councilor Sue Finkam expressed hope that the funding would merely be delayed and not canceled entirely.

“I think it’s reasonable (to hold off on the grants) because we don’t know exactly what’s happening with the budget,” Finkam said. “I hope it will take just a couple of meetings (to sort things out). I don’t anticipate giving them no money.”

City revenues are expected to be between $1 million and $4 million less than anticipated for 2013. Outside consultants for Mayor Jim Brainard, who was absent from Monday’s meeting, are attempting to come up with an exact figure, but Sharp acknowledged it’s probably on the lower end of that scale. The grants make up less than 1 percent of the city’s annual budget.

Cherie Dick with the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre and Alan Davis with the Carmel Symphony Orchestra spoke earlier in the meeting about their successes with last year’s funding. Both left soon after the council voted to table the grants.

Dick said in an e-mail after the meeting she was “hopeful that the mayor and the council will have their discussion soon as it relates to the budget, but respect the council’s responsibility to execute financial due diligence.”

It’s not known how severe the impact will be on the city’s art groups in the unlikely event the council decides not to move forward with the grants. The city made an effort within the last year or so to lessen local groups’ dependence on taxpayer dollars, capping city contributions to 30 percent of the organizations’ total revenue.

The Civic Theatre in particular has had some financial issues, renegotiating its lease with the city late last year. The $200,000 it paid was half the original agreed-upon payment and equal to the grant given to it by the council. The Civic is slated to receive another $200,000 this year.


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