County Executive Rob Astorino released his sixth budget proposal this past Friday, calling for a 20 percent decrease in funding for Westchester’s arts community in 2016. This means a reduction of over $300,000 of support for ArtsWestchester in a proposed $1.8 billion budget for the coming fiscal year.
This news has stirred some anticipated discontent. In a press release from Purchase College, President Thomas Schwarz stated, “The Arts inspire people to become creative and in turn create jobs and attract jobs. The County can’t have it both ways. Creative people in biotech and other fields won’t want to live here without a vibrant arts scene.”
The budget cuts won’t affect ArtsWestchester alone; the Hudson River Museum will also experience a 20 percent cut in funds, equaling about $144,000. According to The Journal News, Democrat Mike Kaplowitz, chairman of the Board of Legislators, is concerned these cuts will lead to a loss of jobs within both of these groups.
In a blog post from Janet Langsam, CEO of ArtsWestchester, she compares the cutbacks to one of Aesop’s fables: “The Goose That Laid The Golden Eggs.”
“You remember that story: The goose was shot,” wrote Langsam. “No more golden eggs.”
“The not for profit arts sector in Westchester has a $156 million economic impact and has grown and fueled some 5,000 jobs,” Langsam continues. “Here’s another fact: the cultural sector in Westchester in 2010 returned more than $23 million to state and local government in the form of income and (guess what?) sales tax. In other words—the goose gives the county government many dollars for every dollar fed to it.”
In an effort to restore the lost funds, ArtsWestchester has released a call to action, asking the county’s residents to email their local legislators and attend one of the public budget hearings to be held on November 24, at Horace Greeley High School in Chappaqua, and December 9, at the Board of Legislators chambers in White Plains.
Last night’s public budget hearing, held at Yonkers Public School 30, became a platform for many of Westchester’s nonprofit organizations to stand together against the proposed budget cuts, including My Sister’s Place and the Child Care Council of Westchester. According to The Journal News, a coalition of nonprofits met in front of the school before the hearing to agree to stand united, in order to ensure that Westchester’s communities continue to thrive.
The final sentence of Langsam’s blog post sings a similar tune: “The message from Westchester’s cultural community is simple: Don’t shoot the goose that lays the golden eggs.”