How the Arts fared in the 2016-2018 City budget

Edmonton City Council passed the 2016-18 budget early this month, the first time it has approved a three-year budget. Councillors were in a difficult position, as they wrestled to keep city taxes next year down to 3.4 % after several years of sizeable increases. The result, for arts organizations in the city, could be a year of little or no funding increases.

Already reported on widely was City Council’s rejection of a request from the Art Gallery of Alberta to receive supplementary funding of $250,000 a year for three years in order to finance its sustainability strategy aimed at long-term stability and growth.

City Council also rejected further funding for Enterprise Square Galleries. The city had provided $240,000 a year to Enterprise Square for the past three years but council decided that funding would not be renewed. The University of Alberta, which oversees the galleries, now is trying to figure out its next steps. Janine Andrews, the U of A’s executive director of museums, says Enterprise Square was just beginning to hit its stride and become popular with the downtown crowd.

Outgoing Executive director of the Edmonton Arts Council (EAC), Paul Moulton, also presented four service packages for the 2016-18 budget. Council voted to pare back the first, deferred the next two and rejected the fourth (the aforementioned AGA sustainability request).

Package One was an EAC operations budget proposal of $397,000 over two years. This package requested improved wages and benefits for staff, something Moulton says is necessary if the Arts Council is to retain staff and maintain current levels of service to the community. The package also allowed for upgrades of outdated computer software and technology. City Council approved an additional $120,000 a year for three years, a move that pleased Arts Council staff in light of overall constraints.

Package Two was a $257,000 “ask” that would have provided funds for a collections management consultant to do an audit of the City’s public art collection. Council deferred making a decision on that item until next year.

Council also deferred ruling until 2016 on improved funding for city artists and arts organizations. Package Three is a request for $400,000 over the next three years to bring funding for the arts and for festivals up to 8% and 12% targets respectively, as outlined in the City’s The Art of Living plan that runs to 2018.

No word yet on when City Council will deal with funding for arts and festivals or the art collection audit.