Posts Tagged ‘SC State Budget Cuts’

SC Arts Commission Budget Cuts – Have You Heard?

Wednesday, November 19th, 2008

On Oct. 14, 2008, I posted comments wondering how the SC Arts Commission would make cuts to its budget as the State of SC was facing an almost half a billion dollar shortfall. At that time people were thinking 10% cuts were in line. In my comments, I doubted that the Commission would take much of the brunt of the cuts on themselves and made suggestions where some cuts could be made. But, I expected the real cuts to come in services to the arts and the public.

By Oct. 22, 2008, Jeffrey Day in The State newspaper in Columbia, SC, our capital city, offered an article where he used the 10% figure and offered quotes from a commission staff member that this figure might just represent the start of cuts. There wasn’t much offered in the article about any cuts the Arts Commission would make on itself.

Day often runs blocking plays for the Arts Commission so I expected as much from his article. Let’s see if he has a follow-up story on the real cuts.

Well, now I’ve heard from a source that those individuals and groups who received grants from the Arts Commission had their funds cut by 25% – 14.2% is an immediate cut and the other half will be held by the Commission – in case of further cuts down the road. If you don’t know – grantees never get all the money up front when they receive funding from the Arts Commission – so the Arts Commission always has control of the money.

This is kind of like a temporary tax issued to raise funds for a project and once the project is finished the tax is dropped, but the tax never seems to get dropped. The house never loses – they’re holding all the cards.

This same source said that the Commission for its part would be cutting its administrative budget 14.2% through a number of measures, including 4-day furloughs by all of their employees, reduction in leased vehicles, and staff reduction through attrition. They’re also going to suspend the Verner Awards for this year – one of my recommendations. More about that later.

I don’t like making comments on third party info – although I appreciate the heads up. I like to comment on public record – directly offered or in newspaper reports. So I had to wait to see if this info would become public – which isn’t always the case when it comes to the SC Arts Commission. Finally the information about the cuts was posted on the Arts Commission’s website. You can read the full details here (http://www.southcarolinaarts.com/about/fy09budgetcuts.shtml).

So let’s take a look at the cuts the Commission is making to itself.

Do you feel their pain? Four days off work without pay, but you still have your job and all the benefits that come with it. Let’s see that’s less than one week out of 52. That’s a 2% cut in salary – what a sacrifice. The length of the furloughs is not mentioned in the Arts Commission’s press release – probably for the calculation I just made, but I’ll go with my source on this one.

The Commission will reduce its leased vehicles from three to one. This means the staff will be sitting in Columbia most of the time – a plus for Columbia’s art community – not so good for the rest of the art community in SC. Of course they could drive their own cars to meet with people in the hinterlands, but we’ll see about that one. They say they are reducing most travel plans and will hold all commission meetings in Columbia. Oh no – no Commission board meeting in Charleston during the Spoleto Festival. Now there’s some real pain. So, the results here are further costs for others who have to deal with the Commission by traveling to Columbia.

They will outright cancel planned publications, other printing and mailings – meaning even less communications with the art community and public. This has to be seen as a benefit of the call for budget cuts by the Arts Commission, but didn’t their leader just win a national award from her peers for her communicating skills? Timing is everything.

And, if someone leaves their job – they won’t rehire to fill the position, but if no one leaves, they don’t do anything. Some temporary staff positions will be reduced. Who knows who they are – most people don’t know who all works for the Arts Commission to begin with. What do they all do? Remember, SC has one of the largest arts agency staffs in the region and nation.

The Commission will suspend State Art Collection purchases. That’s a big cut – I haven’t heard of any additions to the collection in years. And no Verner Awards this year! Another big sacrifice for the Commission board members.

Wait a minute – isn’t the funding for the Art Collection and the Verner Awards functions of the SC Arts Foundation – a totally separate group from the Arts Commission? What would cuts to the State agency have to do with those programs? Or are they really one in the same? What gives here? Did they fall for my little trap – trying to make people mad at me for recommending this cut, and by making it so – expose that there is no difference between the two. Why would they have to make this cut? Is the cost of the award statues and a press release posted on their website that much? Or is this a way to make the artists feel the Arts Commission’s pain. Announce the awards and give them the statue – without your party. Is the award just a product of the party?

In other words – the Arts Commission won’t be making much of a sacrifice itself, while all the people they serve will take a 25% cut – 14.2 right away and more to come if needed. I’m betting it will be needed to protect the Arts Commission from further sacrifices.

What they are doing is settling into their offices in Columbia and waiting for retirement – services be dammed.

How Will the SC Arts Commission Cut Its Budget By 10 Percent?

Tuesday, October 14th, 2008

The State of South Carolina is in financial trouble due to a reduction in projected revenue. Who isn’t? The Governor of SC is calling for the heads of State agencies to come up with ideas to reduce their budgets by 10 percent – before the State Legislature has to do it. I’m wondering what Suzette Surkamer, Executive Director of the South Carolina Arts Commission will do.

Will Surkamer cut 10 percent of programs and services or 10 percent of administration overhead – like staff? My guess is cuts will be in programing, grants and services. But she will feel really bad about it.

I have a few suggestions. First Surkamer could retire. She’s been working for the Arts Commission for over 30 years. She could move on and others could move up the ladder and leave a vacancy at the bottom of the chain. Surkamer has been at the top long enough and that would put a big dent in that 10 percent figure.

Surkamer could cut the position of Visual Arts Coordinator. We’re not getting much out of that person anyway. I’m not sure too many would even notice the difference. A very few would, but not many.

Surkamer could cut the Arts Commission’s Regional Media Arts Center. The Center provides resource and network information for film/video exhibitions in ten southeastern states. Let a richer state handle this service. Our state has a separate film office anyway. She might argue that the center brings in revenue from those other states, but we are picking up the overhead.

Surkamer could also tell the SC Arts Foundation that they would have to get their own office, phone number and staff. But that wouldn’t really save much, since both organizations are one in the same. The Foundation is just a shadow organization which acts as a slush fund for the Arts Commission. If the Foundation is real – what a good time for them to get to work and bring in some money to make up for the loss of that 10 percent. The Foundation could cut the party surrounding the Verner Awards, but then without the party – why give awards?

Well it’s going to be a hard job. But she’ll probably just tell everyone to take a 10 percent cut across the board – as if that’s the fair thing to do – even though it’s not – staff salaries and benefits are probably protected by contracts, but programs, grants and services are not.

We’ll soon see what happens.