Arts center urges last-minute support

Published 9:51 pm Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The Suffolk City Council meets tonight to approve its annual operating budget, and one local organization is hoping for last-minute support to restore a cut in its appropriation.

The Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts sent an email to contacts after business hours on Tuesday, urging recipients to call or email City Council members to ask them to restore funding for the arts center.

The city recommended cutting the $450,000 allocation made in past years to $350,000 for the fiscal year 2013 budget. City officials said other nonprofit organizations needed the funds more. The arts center had requested $694,000.

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Among the 16 nonprofit organizations recommended for city funding, only three got increased recommendations — ForKids, the Genieve Shelter and the Western Tidewater Free Clinic. The clinic’s allocation increased by 33 percent, while the other two organizations each saw an increase of 168 percent.

The total increase for all three was only $53,580.

Other organizations were cut, as well. The Nansemond-Suffolk Volunteer Rescue Squad’s funding was slashed by 20 percent, and the Peanut Soil and Water Conservation District saw a decrease of 50 percent — from $4,000 to $2,000.

“We were greatly distressed to learn that the city made the decision to cut the center by $100,000 in its 2012-2013 proposed budget — which is almost 10% of the center’s annual operating budget,” reads Tuesday’s missive from the arts center. “We hope you will consider championing the center’s cause by making a call or sending an email asking our City Council members to re-insert the $100,000 into the city budget for the Suffolk Center.”

The email points out that the center has awarded scholarships, offered free events, hosted field trips and after-school programs, provided the facility free of charge for school performances and more.

The center also was cited by the city’s Economic Development department for drawing an increased customer base to local restaurants, hotels and shops during performance nights and special events, creating more tax revenue, according to the email.

The budget will be voted on at tonight’s 7 p.m. regular session at City Council chambers, 441 Market St. The $507 million total budget includes an operating fund of about $173 million.

A work session is set to begin at 5 p.m. The only item scheduled for the open portion of the work session is an update on upcoming spring and summer events.