Arts council struggles with budget shortfalls

Published 12:00 am Thursday, October 16, 2003

The director of the Selma Arts Council, Sandy Greene, can tell you all about her budget and how it’s been reduced 50 percent in the last four years.

But what’s a little harder for her to explain is the effect the arts council has had on 10,069 children in Selma and Dallas County schools.

Now &045; with funding from the city of Selma reduced by yet another $5,000 &045; something is going to give.

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Ruth Breipohl, the organization’s treasurer, said, &uot;We’re going to have to make some adjustments somewhere. We’re going to have to cut something.&uot;

Greene and Breipohl aren’t sure just what gets cut yet, but they’re grateful the cuts aren’t deeper. &uot;We appreciate their support. The council is very good to us,&uot; said Greene.

Breipohl said she understood why the money was reduced and was happy to get something, but with cuts to the State Arts Council, the money from the city is more crucial than ever. &uot;Everybody’s piece of the pie is getting a little thinner,&uot; said Breipohl.

In 2000, when James Perkins was elected mayor, the annual allotment from the city fell from $20,000 to $15,000. This year, another $5,000 was cut.

On Oct. 1, the city passed a budget without any money for the arts council. Funding for the organization, though, was raised to $10,000 after Greene met with the council at its regular meeting on Monday to explain why the program was important.

As she told the council, the arts council provided workshops for teachers throughout last year. Without the city’s money, they couldn’t have put these workshops together.

These workshops are designed to help teachers incorporate art into their classrooms. Last year, the arts council provided six workshops to 119 teachers, who in turn educated children on the various arts. According to enrollment figures, the program has brought arts education to 10,069. Without the arts council, none of these children would have been exposed to any art, as the Selma system only has four music teachers for eight schools and no one teaching the arts.

While past budgets of the arts council have been as high as $42,000, less than half of those funds were provided by the city.

Still, without the city’s money, most of the rest wouldn’t be available.

The arts council uses the city’s contribution as matching funds for grants, or &uot;seed money,&uot; according to Greene.

Greene presented the council with statistics about the arts in education. She said students who study are more likely to see improvements in discipline, motivation, attendance and academics. &uot;The greatest improvement comes from children in the lowest socio-economic levels. The arts reach students who are frequently not successful in the regular academic setting,&uot; she said.

While the group doesn’t focus entirely on schools, most of their efforts are used to fill a gap in arts education on the elementary level.

As of this fiscal year – ending in May for the arts council – the group expects to complete all the projects scheduled so far. But it’ll be forced to cut projects next year. Currently, it is expecting to cancel one of its workshops.

Either way, for the children of Dallas County, Monday’s budget meeting means some children won’t learn about Baroque or Monet.