Metro SCFD cultural board approves new funding plan to boost smaller arts outfits


DENVER | Hundreds of cultural organizations across the Denver-Aurora metro area could be getting slightly more funding in the coming years.

The board of directors of the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District reaffirmed a funding proposal that favors more modest venues at an Oct. 22 meeting at the Butterfly Pavilion.

Following months of debate concerning the breakdown of SCFD tax dollars, the board elected to dismiss several alternative budget proposals and recommit its support for the funding plan formulated by a board-appointed task force earlier this spring.

“The plan adopted by the board represents a significant compromise,” Kathy Kucsan, SCFD board vice chair, said in a statement. “Funding for the regional Tier I organizations, our cultural anchors, will stay even with inflation while funding for the Tier II and Tier III organizations will increase at double the rate of inflation. This allows the Tier I organizations to maintain their facilities while Tier II and II groups will be able to grow.”

The board’s plan calls for a steady increase in funding for the nearly 280 smaller Tier II and Tier III cultural outlets through the next reauthorization period in 2030. In dollars, it could mean $15.3 million more for Tier III entities and an extra $22 million for Tier II organizations between 2018 and the end of the next decade. The proposed structure would decrease funding for the “big five” Tier I organizations in Downtown Denver by $37.3 million, according to a press release issued by SCFD. Those Tier I organizations, which absorbed 65.5 percent of SCFD’s total budget of about $52 million this year, are: the Denver Art Museum, Denver Botanic Gardens, Denver Center for the performing Arts, Denver Museum of Nature and Science, and Denver Zoological Gardens.

In 2015, the 28 designated Tier II organizations were allocated nearly $11 million, and 246 Tier III groups were granted $7.7 million. Under the new plan, those numbers would swell to annual totals of $21 million for Tier II and $13.6 million by 2030, according to SCFD calculations.

Aurora’s sole Tier II entity is the city’s cultural services division — which acts as an umbrella for several city arts outposts including the Aurora Fox Arts Center — received $249,100.71 from the tax last year, according to the SCFD annual report. There are about a dozen Tier III organizations in the city.

City staff encouraged Aurora’s Federal, State and Intergovernmental Relations Committee to back the SCFD board’s proposal at a regular meeting earlier this month, though the committee voted to support SCFD funding in general instead of a specific budget plan. The committee also voted to move a discussion of the issue to a city council study session, though it has not yet been outlined on a study session agenda. The Arapahoe County Board of Commissioners has also unanimously backed the SCFD proposal.

The board’s reaffirmation of support for its own budget stymies the efforts of the three other groups vying to have their own funding breakdowns appear on the ballot next year. However, the recent decision has not squashed efforts for an alternative funding solution altogether. Jane Potts, leader of one of the groups pushing its own proposal deemed Friends of Arts & Culture Equity (FACE), said that her coalition does not plan on suspending its efforts following the board’s announcement.

“If (the board’s proposal) was at all generous, we wouldn’t have to be doing all this,” Potts said. “But we’re going to keep pushing this for as long as we need to.”

The current SCFD funding model is set to go to voters in the 2016 election barring any blockades during next year’s legislative session. The last time the issue of the SCFD tax went to voters was in 2004.

“In 2004, the last time that reauthorization occurred, there were similar groups (to FACE),” said Dan Hopkins, the Arapahoe County appointee on the SCFD board. “Any time there is a program like this involved there is going to be significant discussion. I think we have adopted a plan that is fiscally responsible, and I certainly understand that (other groups) may continue to voice their concerns.”

Originally passed in 1988, SCFD is funded by a tax of one cent on every $10 purchase made in a seven county region. It raked in slightly more than $50 million this year and the annual total is expected to reach $87 million by 2030.

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Aaron D
Aaron D
7 years ago

The great works of art, paintings, sculptures, and music were produced based on commission and patronage by individuals, not public funding. While those individuals may have been, in some cases, government officials like kings or courtiers, there was still an element of voluntary exchange of money for goods and services. Today’s art functions have little voluntary exchange, merely tax coercion, and public funding of art produces junk.

7 years ago
Reply to  Aaron D

Yup. Sell all that crap and build more sports stadiums!