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New Jersey Freezes $10 million in Cultural Grants

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The article below was in the Star Ledger today concerning the freezing of grant allocations to the arts organizations.  Now I can see Christie wanting to freeze all new expenditure prior to him taking office, basically he wants to keep the politicians hands out of the cookie jar creating even more of a mess than what the previous administration already put us in. However, I don’t agree with freezing end-of-the-year grant money that was guaranteed to non-profit groups who balanced their budgets on this money which is what Corzine decided to do.  The state is basically breaking their contract. When you receive a grant, the state generally gives 85% of the money at the beginning.  After all end of the year reports are in and the grant requirements have been fulfilled, then the state issues the remaining 15%.

N.J. arts groups fret as state freezes $10M in grants
By Peggy McGlone/The Star-Ledger
December 08, 2009, 9:00PM

Peters Valley Craft Center is furloughing staff because it can’t secure a loan to cover expenses. Weeks shy of season’s end, Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey can’t cut any more, so its leaders will try to negotiate with the vendors it already owes. Colonial Symphony leaders are worried they won’t make January’s payroll.

Hundreds of theaters, museums, musical groups and other arts organizations learned this week that the state treasury froze the more than $10 million in arts grants approved last summer. The money was expected last month, but this week state officials said they don’t know when the funds will be released.

The move, arts leaders say, could cripple the state’s already fragile cultural institutions…

In July, the New Jersey State Council on the Arts approved 229 grants totaling $14.4 million. The council processes the awards in two installments: 85 percent up front, with the balance paid at the end of the fiscal year, after grant recipients file their final reports.

But so far this year, only 30 grants totaling $2.6 million were paid to 18 organizations. The 198 other grants remain in fiscal limbo…

Treasury spokesman Tom Vincz confirmed the state has released only a small portion of the $12.2 million in first installments.

The rest “has been put on hold, along with other areas generally considered ‘discretionary,’ in light of the current year shortfall and the interaction we’ve had with the incoming team,” said Vincz.

The freeze on arts funding is part of a series of moves the Corzine administration is taking to close a projected $1 billion shortfall in this year’s $29 billion budget. Last week, the state’s municipalities learned $20.6 million in payments would not be made this month. Funding to tourism, education and after-school programs are also being held back.

“We’re not saying it is cut until we are able to come forward with the full plate of solutions. That’s expected before Christmas,” Vincz said.

That may be too late for some nonprofits, including the Shakespeare Theatre of New Jersey, which was relying on the state funding to cover costs already incurred. Arts groups were hit by a 25 percent cut in funding, making this latest development even more difficult.

“We’re upset, angry, scared, worried, and massively stressed out,” said Bonnie Monte, artistic director of the Madison theater, which anticipated more than $118,000 from the state last month. “That money is desperately needed. If we don’t get (it) soon, the state is endangering the life of an institution.”

In phone calls to grantees, members of the state arts council staff read portions of a letter Gov.-elect Chris Christie sent to Gov. Jon Corzine that requested a series of budget actions, including placing “all discretionary grant and state aid accounts … in reserve.”

Christie’s spokeswoman Maria Comella said the incoming governor requested these actions so his team could “fully review and assess the state’s current fiscal situation.”

“At this point in time, we are still waiting for the Corzine administration’s response to the letter,” she said.

“I don’t mean to sound hyperbolic, but organizations have been paring back staff, cutting programs, cutting back anything that is not revenue generating,” he said. “If the delay is more protracted, or if the money doesn’t come at all, there is no doubt that organizations will close and never reopen.”

Arts leaders say they have been preparing for another bare-bones budget next summer, but they were shocked to hear that state officials were not standing by this year’s commitments.

“We signed contracts, we published programs, we made commitments with school districts and artists, all in reliance upon what has always been a very routine process,” said Lawrence P. Goldman president and CEO of the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.

Goldman said large institutions like his will find a way to bridge the gap, though it could prove costly because of unexpected interest payments, he said. “My heart goes out to the smaller organizations … who may not have the ability or capacity to bridge until the funds arrive. These are people who are doing vital, essential work in our communities.”

I have posted repeatedly on the NJ.com website about this.  The following are my comments in regards to the article….

For every dollar invested in tourism – which includes the arts, over $30 goes back into the state’s economy. As someone pointed out below, there was a stable source of funding that was established to support arts, history and tourism, so there would be no complaints from New Jerseyans who do not understand the economics of helping to fund these institutions. This funding comes from the HOTEL tax that visitors pay or people staying at a hotel pay. By law there was a set percentage that was to go to fund these institutions, instead the Corzine administration illegally stole from this fund this year to balance the budget.

If you truly want to pay MORE in taxes, then just keep cutting funding to tourism, arts and history, because this actually brings in money into the state and keeps taxes LOWER. Without tourism and these “wasted” institution many of you referred to – we would be paying $1,500 more in taxes a year.

Throughout the corzine administration, tourism, arts and history have continually been cut and right now are at the very bare bones – yet it has done nothing to solve the budget problem and in actuality is making it worse. But as is plainly obvious from the comments below, very few New Jerseyans understand the economics of tourism.

Here are some blog articles to explain the impact that this has on the state’s economy…

NJ Tourism and You – Perfect Together
Letter to Governor-Elect Chris Christie – Tourism and the Image of New Jersey

This is in response to someone saying that the arts community was stupid and not paying attention if they were not aware of the fiscal mess that New Jersey is in.

They were paying attention – it was written into the LAW that these funds were NOT to be touched, known as a DEDICATED fund. Obviously you haven’t been paying attention if you think that tourism or the arts haven’t been paying attention or haven’t been speaking out.

Surflight Theatre has been talking about it before every performance. You have been to Surflight right? In Beach Haven? On Long Beach Island? Not only does Surflight put on great shows featuring equity actors, such as Chicago, Odd Couple, Hair Spray, etc, they also have Suflight to Go, which goes out to schools and teaches children through theater. They also produce shows in Atlantic City, such as the currently running Miracle on 34th Street at the Tropicana.

But because of the budget cuts they are hurting and the restaurants and other businesses in Beach Haven and the surrounding area rely on them, especially during the off season. Right now they have a three week run of Ebeneezer bringing 400 people a day to beach Haven in the middle of winter. You know how much revenue would be lost, not just to Surflight, but to businesses in the area if Surflight had to close for the winter?

Surflight Theatre

This comment has been yet to be approved by the Star Ledger and may not be approved.  But the point is a very important one I think.

You know what attracts people to move to certain places – it’s things to do.  Cultural institutions are a very important part to any community – for its residents and visitors. The arts, history and tourism organizations are mostly made up of non-profits who rely on grants to keep their day to day businesses in operation.  In order to receive grants – it is a very grueling process with having to demonstrate that the money was used wisely, as specified and that there was a Return on Investment (ROI).  They just don’t hand out money to any Harry, Dick or Jane.  The funding of the arts is treated as an investment by the state.

You know the people complaining about the arts – should be outraged that we have TWO NFL teams who wear NY on their uniforms and have received tax subsidies, we have just spent 160 MILLION on the new stadium for the New YORK Red Bulls. We are spending 2.75 BILLION on a tunnel into Manhattan which New York is contributing ZERO on.

These grants are keeping money IN New Jersey, instead of people having to go to Philadelphia or New York to go to a museum.  These people then go to restaurants and spend money in these towns.  Everytime a person goes out of state to do something, that takes money out of the New Jersey economy.  If you want to really drain the New Jersey treasury, just quit funding arts, history and tourism and the only thing left to do will be out of state.  We won’t have the visitors and New Jerseyans will be spending all their money out of state.

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2 COMMENTS

  1. You know the people complaining about the arts – should be outraged that we have TWO NFL teams who wear NY on their uniforms and have received tax subsidies, we have just spent 160 MILLION on the new stadium for the New YORK Red Bulls.

    What a bogus argument from someone who never let facts get in the way of a rant. Sports Franchises are named after CITIES, not States (O.K. rare exceptions the New England Patriots and the old California Angels who are now LAA). New Jersey is STILL getting all the revenue from these teams, that’s why they buit these stadiums to keep them in Jersey. New York doesn’t get a royalty because a team whould rather be known as the New York XXX rather than the Secacus XXX.

    Typical NJ inferiority Complex

  2. First – New Jersey doesn’t have any reason to feel inferior – however we do have a right to receive the credit for having great things in OUR state.

    Second – I love how you say – “Sports teams are named after CITIES, not States” – then list two exceptions. Of course you left out New Jersey Nets and New Jersey Devils. Not to mention that if the Nets move to Brooklyn – they aren’t going to carry a city’s name – they are going to carry a borough name -and be called the Brooklyn Nets. Brooklyn is no longer a city and hasn’t been for 100 years. Just because in GENERAL sports teams carry the city’s name, doesn’t mean they have to.

    As for getting revenue from the teams – in general sports teams cost more than the revenue they generate. What sports teams do is bring notoriety to a state or city. While corporations spend 100’s of millions of dollars to get their name on a stadium to sponsor, what do you think is the effect of having a city or state name on the teams uniform. What do you think is the affect when the Giants do their press conference and the backdrop is coverd with “NY” When the announcers say New York this or New York that or when they list the game as “so and so at New York” – that is publicity and free advertising for the city. Read – Major League Losers: The Real Cost Of Sports And Who’s Paying For It

    When people wear a Giants jersey or hat or shirt, and it has NY on it – – everyone says “New York” – they’re walking billboards for New York. Yeah – it’s the logo for the Giants – but what comes to mind first is NY. It is even MORE powerful when the team wins the Super Bowl like the Giants did. When a team is a winning team with a extremely popular sport, it brings even more prestige. It is free adverting which helps tourism and respect.

    Codey forgave the Giants 100’s of millions of dollars in back payments to the old Giants Stadium in deals with the new stadium and many other deals that basically counteract the revue that the state gets by hosting the teams, this is true for most cities/states that build stadiums to attract teams. Yeah – the Giants and Jets are paying for the stadium – but it’s New Jersey that is footing the bill for all the improvements to transportation, etc.

    Anyway – if a team mostly names themselves after a city, then why not call themselves Newark – instead of New York – which is the largest city in New Jersey and is closer than New York? Before you say that Newark is a minor city, Newark is the 68th largest city in the US with 290,000 people. Only roughly 30,000 less than Cincinnati, 11,000 less than New Orleans, 10,000 less than Pittsburgh, more than Buffalo and what about Green Bay that has the Green Bay Packers? They only have a population of 100,000 people. And don’t say that Newark has such bad crime so why would any team want to call themselves Newark, because in terms of violent crime stats of cities larger than 250,000, Newark ranks 30th in violent crime per 100,000 people in 2008. What cities are worse?

    1) St Louis – 2,072.7
    2) Oakland – 1,968.4
    3) Memphis – 1,925
    4) Detroit – 1,924.1
    5) Baltimore – 1,588.5
    7) Philadelphia – 1,441.3
    8 ) Cleveland – 1,428.8
    9) Nashville – 1,395.5
    10 Atlanta – 1,388.9
    15) Miami – 1,344.7
    19) Indianapolis – 1,204.3
    27) San Fransisco – 995.3
    30 Newark – 950.7

    All the above cities, except Newark have teams who proudly carry their names. As I have always said – reality if meaningless – perception is everything. And this is a prime example of when I ask people – why don’t our teams just call themselves Newark and people respond – “why would a term want to be associated with a crime infested city like that?” Well because they do it with cities that have WORSE crime than Newark. That list doesn’t even include all the cities that have worse crime and yet have teams – I left out Buffalo and others. And going back to minor cities – who the hell knows anything about Green Bay?

    Contrary to what you think, this issue of team names has nothing to do with some inferiority complex – it has everything to do with getting credit and recognition for what New JERSEY has. It also doesn’t stop there. When Earth Day had those world wide major concerts, the one New JERSEY hosted in the Meadowlands was marketed as New York. They even went so far as to promote the Meadowlands on their website as Meadowlands NY. American Idol had the so-called New York auditions in New Jersey at the Meadowlands – but marketed as the New York Auditions and even made a New Jersey contestant pretend to the TV audience that she had to get to New York to attend. When Sean Hannity promotes his Freedom Concert that takes place at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson NJ, he promotes it as New York. I knew someone who attended this year and they were outraged that when he came on stage he said – “Hello New York” – she said people yelled back – “you’re in New Jersey”. His response and so many ignorant people is – “New York? New Jersey? Same thing” Great Adventure is 60 miles south of New York.

    New Jersey and New York aren’t the same – and we have a right and responsibility as citizens of OUR state to make sure that it gets promoted. So you can say that it is because of some perceived inferiority complex, but I would like to see New York host things and have it marketed as being held somewhere else.

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