City Cushions Ballet’s Shortfall

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The Carolina Ballet will get some emergency funding from the city after losing funding from one of its significant and regular donors.

Ballet Executive Director Lisa Jones said one of the organization’s major donors is no longer in the position to make regular contributions. The unnamed donor helped carry the organization through recession, Jones said.

The ballet was able to raise funds to help cover the loss, but was left with a $75,000 shortfall.

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Jones said the ballet asked the city for the additional funding on top of the $250,000 the ballet gets annually as part of a 10-year contract signed in late 2009.

The request came up at the end of last week’s Council meeting. Mayor Nancy McFarlane asked the city to consider the extra funding for the remainder of this fiscal year and next.

City Manager Russell Allen said there is only $40,000 left in the Council contingency budget, the account typically used to fund such requests.

There is, however, about $700,000 remaining in the fuel contingency budget. Each year the city puts extra money away to handle increases in fuel prices.

Because the year is half over and staff doesn’t anticipate any large gas price fluctuations, Allen recommended pulling money from that account.

Allen said he would work the additional funding for the second year into next year’s budget.

The allocation didn’t come without some discussion.

Councilors Mary-Ann Baldwin and Eugene Weeks supported pulling money out of the fuel contingency this year and working the additional funding into next year’s budget.

Councilor Bonner Gaylord said he supports the ballet, but thought the organization should go through the Arts Commission grants process. He worried that the Council was setting a bad precedence by not following its own funding policies.

“I’m just concerned that it’s moving away from our stated budget change to get the grants to go through the Arts Commission,” Gaylord said.

The Raleigh Arts Commission is administered by the city, but it is run by resident volunteers who evaluate the grant applications. The Commission makes a funding recommendations to Council.

Any nonprofit organization headquartered in Raleigh can apply for funding. The city allocates $4.50 per capita each year for the program. This year about $1.85 million was budgeted.

Councilor Thomas Crowder agreed with Gaylord. He suggested allowing the additional funding for this year, but having the ballet go through the Arts Commission next year.

“Let’s look at that next year and hopefully be successful through the grants process,” he said.

Crowder’s motion was approved 5 to 3 with Baldwin, Weeks and Gaylord voting against.

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