Arts organizations to see cuts as cigarette tax revenue decreases

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CUYAHOGA COUNTY, Ohio- Major arts organizations in Cuyahoga County are preparing for funding cuts for 2018. Cuyahoga Arts and Culture, the initiative that distributes cigarette tax revenue, announced organizations that receive funding will, on average, get 12% less than past years.

The Cleveland Orchestra, one of the biggest recipients, will get $1.2 million in 2018 and 2019, which is a 26% decrease from the $1.5 million it got in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

Cuyahoga Arts and Culture distributed about $10 million in General Operating Support to 61 arts and culture organizations, including the Cleveland Botanical Garden. The garden is now facing a 32% decrease in the funding they once got.

“We are disappointed, as a lot of the other organizations in town, but we get it. Ultimately, there is a smaller pot of money to go around and we are continuing to get something which is better than nothing,” said Tara Turner, Interim Chief Advancement Officer for the Botanical Garden.

There is less money to go around because fewer people are smoking.

In 2006, Cuyahoga County residents voted to instate at 30-cents-per-pack tax on cigarettes. The goal was to not only encourage people to stop smoking, but create a steady stream of revenue for the arts

“We see our revenue go down every single year,” explained Karen Gahl-Mills, CEO and Executive Director of Cuyahoga Arts and Culture. “We project going forward it’s going to go down about 2.6% per year. In our first levy, which was 2006-20016, our levy went down 25% during the course of that time,” Gahl-Mills explained.

Cuyahoga Arts and Culture will fund a record number of 258 arts organizations in 2018, 25 of them are first-time grant recipients. For the organizations facing cuts, it’s up to them to make up the difference, but Gahl-Mills says it’s something they knew was coming.

“We know for the orchestra and for everyone who is receiving a cut they have to figure out ways to backfill those individual dollars,” she said.

As for the Cleveland Botanical Garden, the holiday season is one of their busiest times of the year, and Turner plans to turn to new ways of fundraising.

“There’s really nobody else around town that offers this kind of holiday experience. We probably receive about 25% of our revenue during this time of year,” she said.

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