A couple years ago I wrote a post (reprinted below) about desperate attempts by cultural institutions like the Detroit Zoo and the Detroit Institute of Arts to raise money through multi-county property taxes.
I haven't kept up with the issue. I am not sure it passed, because there is a vote in August on a property tax levy for the Detroit Institute of Arts
. Also see "As millage vote looms, lawmaker and DIA spar over finances
" from the Detroit Free Press
I still think the best approach is regional, although it's hard to pull off.
Tom Murphy, first a legislator in Pennsylvania, and later long-time Mayor of Pittsburgh, created the infrastructure for the "Regional Asset District" in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, which supports the big cultural institutions in the city (museums, libraries, parks, etc.) but also cultural institutions throughout the county, through a county-wide levy.
That's what should be done in places like Detroit and Cleveland (in Cleveland they have a local levy on cigarette sales, "Cuyahoga County cigarette tax helping arts groups even as fewer people smoke
" from the Cleveland Plain Dealer
, which isn't a very equitable way to fund the arts, even though I hate smoking...).
This ought to become a much bigger issue going forward, as local governments are going to be continually hard pressed financially and will have to make hard choices on what to fund.
Parks-related tax and bonding initiatives tend to pass at high rates, greater than 70%, so if you build the basis of support properly, despite the difficulties of working across multiple taxing jurisdictions, I think it's possible to do this for the arts, or to combine such initiatives.
A way for a metropolitan area to support arts institutions based in the center city
It will be a cold day in hell before most metropolitan areas are willing to merge the taxation streams into one funding stream that supports municipalities throughout a region, as Myron Orfield suggests in the book Metropolitics: A Regional Agenda for Community and Stability
On the other hand, there are more examples of center cities merging with the adjoining county for the provision of a significant number of services, and the tax revenue stream, such as in Indianapolis-Marion County, Indiana, Nashville-Davidson County, Tennessee, or Louisville-Jefferson County, Kentucky.
(And there are a number of examples of merged county-cities, such as San Francisco and Philadelphia, although this happened, at least for Philadelphia, more than 100 years ago.)
The Detroit Free Press
has a story, "DSO could benefit from plan similar to DIA, zoo plan," about how there is a proposal to create a couple of regional taxes in Wayne, Oakland, and Macomb Counties in Michigan, to support the Detroit Institute of Arts, which is an institution based in the center city, but providing services to the entire region, and the Detroit Zoo (although the Zoo is located in Oakland County but owned by the city), and how a local representative, Rep. Vicki Barnett of Farmington/Farmington Hills is suggesting that this concept be extended, and also provide support for the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, which faces significant budgetary problems and a strike by its musicians as a result of proposed changes in compensation and work requirements.
From the article:
Democrat Rep. Vicki Barnett said she hopes to muster support to add the DSO to a bill that would allow voters in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties to vote for a tax of up to 0.2 mills to help pay for the Detroit Institute of Arts.
That bill is before the House for final approval next week. Another bill would allow the tri-county voters to double the 0.1-mill tax for the Detroit Zoo they approved in 2008.
This is a good effort, but instead of creating a bunch of separate taxes, how about supporting cultural institutions more systematically, just as how the Regional Asset District
was created in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania to support cultural and civic institutions, primarily those located in Pittsburgh, which also serve regional audiences, but also to support institutions located in the county, not just the center city. (This helps strengthen support from jurisdictions other than the center city.) From the RAD website:
Allegheny Regional Asset District (RAD) supports and finances regional assets in the areas of libraries, parks, cultural, sports and civic facilities and programs
And there are many examples of these kinds of taxing and/or operating districts across the U.S., from the Chicago Park District, which only receives monies from the City of Chicago, but which supports museums and facilities other than parks, to transit authorities.
Labels: arts-culture, civic assets, parks and open space, public finance and spending, taxation