Tourist coun­cil pro­poses $4.4M in cul­tural grants

Palm Beach Daily News - - OPINION - By JAN SJOSTROM

The Palm Beach County Tourist De­vel­op­ment Coun­cil re­cently ap­proved nearly $3.9 mil­lion in grants for 22 of the county’s largest cul­tural groups and $480,600 for 14 mid­size groups for 2017-18. That’s $35,600 more for mid­size groups and $288,000 more for large groups than was al­lo­cated in 2016-17.

County grants help lever­age fundrais­ing, and they’re the largest grants groups can count on con­sis­tently, said Rena Blades, head of the Cul­tural Coun­cil of Palm Beach County, which ad­min­is­ters the grants.

The grants rep­re­sent about 3 per­cent of the av­er­age re­cip­i­ent’s op­er­at­ing bud­get, ac­cord­ing to a coun­cil anal­y­sis. That’s 1 per­cent be­low the na­tional av­er­age for lo­cal gov­ern­ment fund­ing. “The cul­tural sec­tor is grow­ing by leaps and bounds, and in cer­tain re­spects is out­pac­ing gov­ern­ment fund­ing,” she said.

To­tal at­ten­dance re­ported by grantees has grown from about 2.2 mil­lion in 2011 to nearly 4 mil­lion in 2016, ac­cord­ing to coun­cil fig­ures. Many groups have em­barked on cap­i­tal cam­paigns and projects to ac­com­mo­date the growth, Blades said.

In May 2016, the county com­mis­sion stripped $121 mil­lion in cul­tural cap­i­tal projects from a ref­er­en­dum rais­ing the county sales tax from 6 cents to 7 cents. Vot­ers ap­proved the ref­er­en­dum in Novem­ber.

Grants ranged from nearly $24,000 for the Palm Beach Po­etry Fes­ti­val to more than $229,000 for the Kravis Cen­ter. The Palm Beach Sym­phony is rec­om­mended to re­ceive $37,722, The So­ci­ety of the Four Arts, $216,675 and the Fla­gler Mu­seum, $221,009.

The Ann Nor­ton Sculp­ture Gar­dens’ grant jumped from about $7,000 to nearly $35,500 be­cause its in­creased bud­get qual­i­fies for a higher grant cat­e­gory.

The grants are fi­nanced by the county tax on short­term lodg­ings. Rev­enues from the tax were 2.6 per­cent ahead of last year’s to­tals as of March, the last date for which fig­ures are avail­able. But they’re slow­ing. Fe­bru­ary col­lec­tions lagged 2.8 per­cent be­hind last year and March col­lec­tions dipped by 1.7 per­cent.

“If bed tax col­lec­tions con­tinue to be flat, next year’s grants will be smaller,” Blades said.

Grant amounts are based on scores, which for mid­size and big groups are judged ev­ery two years, and tax rev­enues.

A coun­cil panel re­cently judged the lat­est two-year cy­cle. The grants, which were ap­proved by the coun­cil’s board in April, will go to the County Com­mis­sion this sum­mer for fi­nal ap­proval.

Richard Graulich / Daily News File Photo

Artist Todd McGrain in­stalls a pas­sen­ger pi­geon bronze out­side the Ann Nor­ton Sculp­ture Gar­dens on Jan. 5. The grant for the sculp­ture gar­den jumped from about $7,000 to nearly $35,500 be­cause it moved to a higher cat­e­gory.

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