At the next Tallahassee City Commission meeting, elected officials will consider a request by the Council on Culture and Arts (COCA) for additional $300,000 in funding.
COCA is currently slated to receive $192,036 in general fund dollars from the City in FY23. Approval of the funding would bring the total contribution from the City to $492,036 for FY23.
COCA is also allocated $150,000 of general revenue from Leon County, and one cent of the five-cent tourist development tax (TDT). This one-cent revenue for COCA is projected to be $1.42 million in FY23, higher than pre-pandemic levels.
COCA provided a breakdown of its plans for the additional $300,000 requested, which includes $200,000 for current community arts organizations and $100,000 for new programs that have not qualified for funding and are not eligible for other City programs.
The $200,000 is for 16 current programs; four will meet an immediate need for support, and 12 others do not qualify for TDT funding. Of these 16 programs, ten have received funding through one or more of COCA, the CRA, City special events, and Visit Tallahassee special events in the past year. Examples include the Cool Breeze Jazz Festival, Southern Shakespeare, and the John G. Riley Center. COCA has not provided program detail for the $100,000 funding for new activities.
City staff researched comparable cities across Florida to see how local arts and culture funding is coordinated locally compared to Tallahassee/Leon County. The financials of comparable non-governmental agencies to COCA—those designated as local arts coordinators and receiving support for its local government(s)—were analyzed to compare their source of funding, including from local governments and private funding.
The comparison revealed that four comparable cities have an arts agency within their county that is designated as the local arts coordinator or receives direct funding from that city government, similar to COCA. These include Lakeland and the Polk Arts Alliance, Orlando and United Arts of Central Florida, Pensacola and ACE (Arts, Culture, Entertainment Inc.), and West Palm Beach and the Palm Beach Cultural Council.
According to the staff’s analysis, the City of Tallahassee exceeds all but one city (Orlando) among comparable cities, outpacing all other cities in the state in prioritizing and investing in local culture and arts program.
In addition, City staff notes that the City Commission took action at prior meetings to balance a projected $4.67 million General Fund deficit for FY23. COCA’s request for an additional $300,000 of funding would again put the General Fund in a deficit position for FY23 and require a further acceleration of American Rescue Plan Act funds to cover this gap. This action would also increase the projected General fund deficit in both FY24 and FY25.