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You are Viewing an Archived IssuePosted: 04/25/12
approves art authority
by CHRIS GRAYShould Macomb County officials approve of creating an art authority, the Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) could receive assistance in funding its operations through taxpayers.
Observer Staff Writer
In return, the DIA is offering free admission to residents if they approve of a 10-year millage during the August primary.
On April 20, the Board of Commissioner's Economic Development Committee voted 5-3 in favor of establishing an art authority in Macomb County. If approved by the full board at its April 24 meeting, the new authority will propose a 0.2 millage to support the operations of the DIA.
The results of Tuesday night's vote were not available as of Observer print deadline.
The committee initially rejected the proposal two weeks ago, citing doubts about Detroit's financial situation as well as concerns with how the authority would spend revenue generated by Macomb County taxpayers.
Dist. 4 Commissioner David Flynn, co-chair of the committee, said he was "cautiously optimistic" going into Friday's meeting about the issue garnering enough votes to move forward. He said the concerns on the authority had been sufficiently addressed with the second go-around.
"The reason why it was brought up again is because the DIA is not only an important educational and cultural center for Detroit, but for all southeast Michigan," Flynn said.
The art authority would be a board made up of appointees chosen by both commissioners and the county executive. The group would be in charge of placing the millage on the August ballot.
In addition, the authority would negotiate contracts for art services with the DIA and would be in charge of distributing revenue to the DIA.
Annmarie Erickson, chief operating officer of the DIA, said if the museum is not holding up its end on any agreements, the authority can choose to not disperse the funds.
"The authority serves at the pleasure of county commissioners and county executive, and can be replaced at any time," she said.
Wayne County already approved of its art authority as of March 29, while in Oakland County the decision is expected to be made in May.
If approved, the millage would begin with the first tax collection after August. The millage itself will be 0.2 mills for 10 years, which equates to $10 annually for every $100,000 of a home's market value.
A total of $23 million a year would come in if residents in all three counties approved the millage: $5 million from Macomb County, $8 million from Wayne County and $10 million from Oakland County.
The millage would fund museum operations so it could instead raise money for its operations endowment. Erickson said the endowment is money that is invested by the museum, and the earnings from those investments are used to fund the DIA.
"The endowment is a pool of money that is designed to ensure the institution's future," Erickson said.
Erickson said the DIA recognizes that taxpayer dollars would be used to fund the museum. In return, residents in any county that approve of the millage will have free admission to the DIA for the duration of the millage.
"We believe the arts and culture are important to the people of the Tri-County area," Erickson said.
Not all are in favor of the measure. In a written statement, Dist. 7 Commissioner Don Brown said with the economy still recovering from a recession he can't justify further taxing Macomb County residents.
"To some this DIA tax may seem insignificant by itself," Brown said. "However, when added to the rest of taxes levied, becomes significant, especially for those on a limited budget."
He added the DIA is an important establishment, which makes him wonder why it doesn't put the issue on the November ballot when more voters will be at the polls.
Should the DIA not raise the $10 million a year needed to maintain its operations, the museum has formed a plan that will put it in a "controlled shutdown."
Public hours would be cut back, galleries would be closed on a rotating basis, most school programs would be cut and staff members would be let go until a skeleton crew remained, Erickson said.
"It may seem a little naive, but we're remaining optimistic it will get on the ballot in all three counties and will pass," she said.