Governor’s budget submission causes local concern

Published 3:00 am Saturday, March 28, 2015

Gov. Robert Bentley has submitted a budget to the State Legislature that removes all arts funding from the Education Trust Fund and places it in the state’s General Fund, which is already $200 million in the red.

Al Head, Alabama State Council on the Arts executive director, has expressed concern, saying the move would put pressure on the Legislature to adopt new taxes and other sources of revenue to fund the General Fund.

“Being placed in the General Fund would be a hazardous and risky place for us to be,” Head said. “If no new taxes were approved, there would have to be significant cuts in the General Fund. ASCA would be facing issues and problems with the potential results of significantly having to cut funding to schools and educational programs.”

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Vicki Pritchett, Johnson Center for the Arts executive director, shares Head’s concerns.

“The Johnson Center would suffer greatly if our funding from ASCA was significantly cut,” Pritchett said. “We would no longer be able to keep the doors of the Johnson Center open free of charge. We would not be able to offer the high caliber exhibits that people have come to expect nor would we be able to offer the summer teacher workshops or go into the classroom with our arts programming.”

Pritchett said the Johnson Center for the Arts is a non-profit organization and depends on grants, memberships, donations and fundraisers to keep the doors open.

“The public’s perception is that the City of Troy owns the building but it does not,” she said. “We get funding from the city and it is greatly appreciated but it’s not enough to meet the expenses that a facility like this incurs.”

Pritchett said there is a $1.5 million note on the Johnson Center.

“Then, we have utility bills to pay along with maintenance costs and salaries,” she said. “And, there are costs associated with the exhibits and programs we offer. ASCA grant funding is essential to our being able to continue to offer quality exhibits, educational programs and keep the doors of the Johnson Center without charging admission.”

Pritchett said she is very concerned that, by moving ASCA from the Education Trust Fund to the General Fund, the Johnson Center’s educational component will “go away.”

“Our mission is the cultural enrichment of the lives of all citizens through exposure to and education in the arts,” she said. “Our mission would be greatly compromised if we lost our ASCA funding. But, it’s not just the Johnson Center for the Arts that would be adversely affected. Other arts organizations in the county as well as arts organizations all across the state would suffer. We, here in Pike County, need to let Gov. Bentley and our Legislators know how important the arts are to education and to our quality of life.”

Pritchett is encouraging all Pike Countians to let their voices be heard by contacting Rep. Alan Boothe and Sen. Jimmy Holley with their concerns.

Holley may be contacted at Boothe may be reached at