I Don't Know What Patterson is Thinking

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Most of the country is experiencing financial difficulty this year.  New York's situation seems to be exponentially worse because, apparently, we have relied heavily in the past on tax revenue from the big bonuses given out to the numbskulls on Wall Street.  (Really?  I'm having a hard time swallowing that story, actually.  I'd like to see the numbers and I suspect that our decrease in tax revenue has as much to do with large scale small job and revenue stream losses as it does with a bad bonus year or two on wall street.)

So Patterson has been making some cuts.  And he intends to make more cuts.  He plans to cut K-12 budgets by $1.4 Billion this year.  He proposes closing some of our state parks.  He proposes a further 6.5 million in cuts to NYSCA's budget.   All of those cuts = jobs lost.  Job losses = further decreases in tax revenue.

The cuts to State Parks and Arts spending also = lost tourism $$.   Decreased tourism spending = decreases in tax revenue.

If Albany thinks that teacher and para-professional income is small potatoes in the tax revenue department, they should examine the numbers a little better.  Almost 100% of my family's income is taxed.  We do get a tax return every year so our actual income tax is pretty low but we have very little money left over to save, so virtually all of our income goes back into the economy and (except for our groceries) is taxed.  Most teachers and school employees we know in this area are in a similar economic situation.  Those K-12 school employees who do earn a little more and are able to save significant money are often two income families who land solidly in the highest % paying tax brackets.

Education jobs = tax dollars coming right back into the state budget one way or another.  Putting these teachers and paraprofessionals on unemployment and/or welfare won't do much to help the state's budget picture.

 

Let's talk about the Arts.  The Executive budget proposes to cut NYSCA's budget down to $35.150 million for 2010.  NYCA's budget in 2009 was $41.6 million and that figure represents a cut from 2008 allocations.   The budget for NYSCA is only 1/300 of 1% of the overall state budget.

I don't think it makes sense to cut the arts any further.

Why?

Arts investments = jobs, significant tax revenue and lots of economic activity.

Last year, NYS spent $41.6 million on the arts.  50% of that investment went directly into jobs in the arts.  Another 12% paid for professional services (more jobs).  From that $14.6 million spent, $27.5 Billion went back into the economy.  $1.2 Billion was paid directly to the state as income tax, sales tax, business taxes and visitor spending taxes.

In essence, every One Dollar NYS spent on the arts last year resulted in $30.00 of tax revenue and OVER $6,000 pumped back into local economies.  (This means that an arts event or establishment gets money out of consumers' pockets and puts it back into local circulation through ticket sales, donations, purchases of art pieces or handcrafts in a gift shop, etc . . .  The numbers prove that if the state pays out a bit of seed money so that someone can get paid to make an arts event happen or guarantee the stability of a museum or other arts venue, consumers will come and spend money there - resulting in JOBS and TAX revenue.)   Why on earth would anyone cut back on an investment with that sort of return?


Most people, including our busy legislators, probably have no idea that the Arts generate such an impressive economic return.  I also think that many people assume that "the Arts" will happen whether or not people like Hilary and Suzy and me and Steven are paid to make it happen.  I'm here to tell you that it won't - or at least not at the level that folks have come to expect and enjoy.

Let's talk a bit about the realities of arts funding right here at home in St. Lawrence County.  The SLC Arts Council receives significant payroll support from NYSCA.  The gift shop and gallery, other granting programs and special events we hold bring in other sources of revenue which pay for rent, heat, lights, paper, ink, computers and printers, paper towels, art supplies, etc, etc . . .

While I LOVE my "paid day off" each week, there's no way I could justify regularly borrowing a vehicle and taking time away from my business and family once a week or more to coordinate the SLC Arts Council's class schedule on a volunteer basis right now.  No classes = no teacher checks for guys like Dave Ferry, who runs our wildly successful Comics Club or Sherri Chapman, who just taught two awesome PMC jewelry classes and is scheduling more for this summer.  That's money back in the economy right there, not to mention an enriching arts experience for community members.

If our Community Arts Grants Coordinator funding was cut, Suzy would have to look for another job.  She can't afford to volunteer, either.  It would be mighty hard to replace her and a multitude of programs would be at risk.  The Norwood Village Green Concert series got it's start and was supported for many, many years through the grant program Suzy now administers.  I believe that series has moved beyond our level of funding and is more self sufficient now, but our Community Arts Grant program currently supports dozens of new and developing arts programming in small communities all over St. Lawrence, Jefferson and Lewis counties.  Can you imagine summers in Norwood with an empty village green on Thursday nights?  I can't.  Can you imagine dozens of small scale arts programs all over the North Country all year long bringing the Arts close to home for rural residents and providing (taxable) income for local and visiting artists?  You can see info on some of these programs supported by Community Arts Grants on the SLC Arts Council's website

Without the funding to pay Steven's wages, our office and gallery would be pretty messy, our mailings wouldn't get out on time and we would get way behind in our filing, which would slow us down at critical moments.

And I won't even try to list all of the things Hilary does to bring the Arts to Upstate.  The SLC Arts Council wouldn't be as successful without her tireless service over the last decade.  I hate to imagine what we would do if she had to seek other employment.  Would she have time to bring artists together with BOCES to make the Visiting Artist Program more successful?  Not so much.  Those plans for a multi-arts center where people will learn to dance, sing, draw, paint, blow glass, make pottery & cook amazing food?  Ha!   That gift shop you like to visit and where over 250 local artists sell their work and learn how to market their wares outside of St. Lawrence County?  Gone.  Without an effective Executive Director, our arts council would not be able to provide all of the services we do and most of those services generate taxable revenue streams.

NYS is in a pinch.  I understand that.  I do not understand why we would choose to cut programs which do so much to enrich our state culturally, historically and financially.  Without the arts & without the tourism that the Arts and our State Parks encourage, we will be paupered on a number of levels.  Without good educators being paid a living wage, our children and our tax coffers will suffer.

You can visit these links to read more and make your voice heard regarding these budget cuts:

NYSUT website budget page

NYS Arts Alliance of NYS Arts Organizations

List of proposed closures to State Parks and Patterson's statement

To e-mail, write or call the gouverner's office directly on any of these issues:
Contact The Governor


Photos in this post were all taken in State Parks or at State Historical sites of interest.







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