Budget Talks

Arts Council for Monterey County Executive Director Jacquie Atchison says the reduction in funds matters to the artists and organizations her nonprofit supports.

The Arts Council for Monterey County hosted its Champions of the Arts Gala on Saturday, June, 18, a big annual fundraising effort. Among many dressed-to-the-nines guests was Monterey County District 5 Supervisor Mary Adams. She also wore a glowing light-up heart necklace, distributed to guests who donated money. “We’ve got to fight to retain funding for our arts,” she said in her remarks.

Despite those words, the organization is set to receive 22 percent less funding from Monterey County for budget year 2022-2023 compared to the previous budget year – or $440,000.

The important context for these numbers is, of course, the work Arts4MC does with it – supporting 80-plus local arts initiatives with grants, functioning almost as the county’s de facto arts and culture department.

The $126,000 drop is “a major reduction,” Arts4MC Executive Director Jacquie Atchison says. “That will have a big impact. It can be devastating for organizations that rely on those funds.”

In fiscal year 2020-21, Arts4MC was allocated $247,000 from the county; that went up to a generous $566,000 in 2021-22. Arts4MC also gets funding from grants and donations – the total annual budget of the nonprofit is approximately $2.4 million.

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Arts4MC is one of several organizations that relies on a county budget line item for part of its funding. That line item, known as Development Set-Aside unit (DSA), funds four entities: the Arts Council, the county Film Commission, the county Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Business Council.

Since 2008, these groups were financed based on a formula that sets aside roughly 9 percent of the unincorporated county’s transient-occupancy tax, or TOT – a 10.5-percent county tax on hotel room revenues. The percentage for Arts4MC should be 1.98 percent of the county’s total TOT revenue. Based on that agreement, the Arts Council should be receiving about $493,000 this year, Atchison says.

But the formula was scrapped, specifically to free up dollars for work at Laguna Seca raceway. The County Board of Supervisors decided not to use the formula in this year’s budget process.

On Tuesday, June 21, the Board of Supervisors voted 5-0 to approved a $1.8 billion budget. Arts4MC received $440,000, and the Monterey County Film Commission received $212,000, each getting slightly more than originally proposed, thanks to negotiations.

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