Tourist council proposes $4.4M in cultural grants
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.
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.