Boulder’s $ 462.5 million budget for 2022 was approved on Tuesday – with no changes requested from the arts community
If the pandemic has taught Kari Palazzari anything, it’s how important the arts are in a community.
“People really crave social programs and creative programs and all of the mental, physical and social benefits of doing a community art program,” said the executive director of Studio Arts Boulder.
For this reason, Palazzari and many other members of the Boulder arts community have urged Boulder City Council to prioritize the arts and add $ 500,000 to be used primarily for staff assistance and rental programs. workspaces in the city’s 2022 budget for arts and culture.
This would help the city meet the goals set out in its 2015 Community Culture Plan, which stipulated that the Arts and Culture Bureau should have a budget of more than $ 2 million and six employees, advocates argued. According to data presented on Tuesday, approximately $ 1.6 million is allocated to arts and culture in 2022.
On Tuesday, the board approved a spending plan of $ 462.5 million for the coming year and did so without making any changes.
Tuesday marked the second budget hearing. By the time the city’s spending plan reaches second reading, it becomes difficult for staff members to make significant changes. According to city finance staff, this would require pushing back the approval schedule and scheduling a third reading.
And despite concerns from the arts community, the city was generally grateful to present what it often calls a “restoration budget,” more than $ 100 million more than what was approved for the current year.
Thanks to an obligation in the Utilities Department and higher-than-expected earnings, Boulder is in a better position than he thought after the coronavirus pandemic last year forced the city to lay off staff, to put employees on leave and forgo merit increases. and increasing for the most part.
City council backed the budget on Tuesday, and there hasn’t been too much talk since council members had another hearing earlier in October.
In addition to restoring a variety of services that had been cut, the City intends to allocate approximately $ 3 million to support its staff and reduce merit increases for union and non-union municipal employees. It will also bring back nearly 60 full-time employees and extend 18 contract positions.
While Boulder’s 2022 budget will allow Boulder Fire-Rescue to hire much needed staff, there were discussions Tuesday of a $ 30,000 cut that will eliminate funding used for overtime to train the dive team. submarine department, forcing him to use the volunteer Boulder Emergency Squad for aquatic rescues in which a dive team is required.
“We would always go. We are going at all risk, ”said Fire Chief Michael Calderazzo. “But we wouldn’t be the ones who, in this case, we put in the water with dive technicians.”
The Board ultimately decided not to micromanage and did not reorganize the budget to restore program funding. Calderazzo said there will be a reassessment in the next budget cycle.
While city council did not make any budget changes for the coming year on Tuesday, there was general recognition that it would like to do more to support Boulder’s arts and culture community.
“We certainly recognize that this is a fixed budget,” said Mark Woulf, senior budget director, of the arts and culture budget. “It’s not about where we want to be in funding our community cultural plan. “
Woulf noted that the city is considering allocating some of its American Rescue Plan Act funding for this purpose, and she hopes to reconsider funding when the community cultural plan is renewed in 2024.
Board member Mary Young asked what the Arts and Culture Bureau might consider as it works to create a new plan or renew the current plan in a few years.
“A lot has changed since 2015, especially around affordability issues and supporting artists as small business owners,” said Matt Chasansky, director of the Boulder Arts and Culture Office. , during a meeting. “These issues have been reported, but have become a growing concern over the years. “
Palazzari’s claim is pretty straightforward: prioritize the arts.
“Often in the language around priorities, when there is a list of points… arts and culture are listed as one of the things the city is proud of, one of the things the city makes a priority of, the one of the city’s key objectives, ”she said. . “But I don’t think it always shows up where the investment is actually placed.”
As a non-profit organization, Studio Arts Boulder is not directly tied to Boulder’s budget. However, it is one of the many arts organizations vying for the city’s limited funding. As a large organization, Studio Arts receives $ 20,000 per year to cover general operating expenses, Palazzari said, and it will reapply for this multi-year grant soon.
It’s a competitive process, which often pits organizations against each other, she noted.
“It’s unfortunate that we have this ‘Hunger Games’ funding within our ecosystem because at the end of the day our desire is to be collaborative,” Palazzari said.
Ultimately, however, members of Boulder’s arts community said they understood the need for the city to proceed with caution given the financial pressure of the pandemic.
And Palazzari acknowledged that the budgeting process has been much more collaborative in recent history. She said she hoped it would continue to move forward.
Deborah Malden, a founding board member of Create Boulder which serves as the artistic liaison for the Boulder Chamber, agreed, saying “even a modest additional investment from the city would pay off considerably.”
“Sometimes it’s not even just the money. It’s the vote of confidence, ”she said. “Giving hope to our artists, making them feel valued, making our organizations feel that they are valued, that is priceless.