I attended Sedgwick County’s budget proposal meeting on Monday, and it was sobering. Chief Financial Officer Chris Chronis laid out the proposed budget, and it’s clear the county is focused on debt reduction and funding what they call “core” functions, like roads and bridges. They are not interested in taking loans, or bonding, or increasing revenues.
With no new revenue and no borrowing, despite the county’s AAA credit rating, budget cuts are the only tool they have left. CFO Chronis said that budgets are about priorities, and it is clear that arts and culture are not priorities for these commissioners. However, commissioners did say they want input from Sedgwick County residents.
Cuts to the Sedgwick County Zoo, Exploration Place, the Arts Council and a dozen other organizations have spurred pushback under the hashtag #QuitTheCuts with a website of the same name. A #QuitTheCuts rally will be held at 5:30pm in Old Town Square this Final Friday.
As an arts professional, I think it’s important for the county to know the arts are an industry. We generate revenue, increase job retention, improve K-12 learning, and we define the culture of where we live. We are not icing on a cake. The arts are all around us--just look to the official County logo to see the Keeper of the Plains. Maybe a picture of a bridge is a more appropriate logo now.
I hope to see funding restored for the arts, but I will not be surprised if the county continues its track record of cutting budgets, changing funding contracts and blocking tax subsidies for the creation of an Arts District. For arts organizations, it seems best to plan without funding from the county, if possible. They are an unstable, inconsistent source of funding, and that’s no way to run a business.
For more information about the #QuitTheCuts rally and the organizations whose funding is being threatened, visit:
For more information about the proposed 2016 budget and to contact the county commissioners, visit: