There is still time to make a plea to the Kansas Legislature to restore state support of the Kansas Arts Commission, said Christine Downey Schmidt, former arts commission board member, at a community forum Monday night.
About 40 people gathered at McKinley Administrative Center in Newton to discuss strategies to persuade the House or Senate to pass a resolution of non-support of a executive reorganization order that would pull state funding from the Kansas Arts Commission and make the agency a private non-profit organization.
Downey Schmidt said a resolution could be introduced into the Senate on March 3.
Downey Schmidt said the elimination of the arts commission would be contrary to the state’s objective of economic growth and job creation, especially in rural communities, such as Newton.
“The governor is very concerned about the loss of population in rural do not have good schools, good libraries and something for those people to do after hours.”
The state stands to lose $1.2 million in federal and regional funding if the arts commission is privatized. It has been suggested the National Endowment of Arts funds could be funneled through the Kansas State Historical Society.
However, a letter from the NEA, which Schmidt read to the group, stated the state would be at risk of losing its federal funding if the Kansas Arts Commission becomes a nonprofit entity.
Downey Schmidt said she understands the desire for smaller government, but the arts commission is a small part of the overall Kansas budget. The commission employs seven full-time employees, and Downey Schmidt said she is amazed what those seven people have been able to achieve.
The arts employ about 4,000 people directly in Kansas and another 37,000 people indirectly.
Organizations with Newton Area Arts Council have total expenditures of $715,000 and 20 full-time employees. Activities of those organizations produce $21,107 in local tax revenue and $26,684 in state tax revenue.
In addition, audiences for Newton area arts spend $621,720  and generate $25,963 in local tax revenue and $29,414 in state tax revenue.
State funding through the Kansas Arts Commission has been declining. In 2009-10, Newton area arts groups received $32,907 in state grants, and in 2010-11, the groups received $22,138.
The state funds account for about 10 percent of the local agencies’ budgets, said Matt Schloneger, director of Hesston-Bethel Performing Arts.
He said local arts agencies have virtually no funds left after they pay for salaries and their physical plants.
“Our organizations do a lot with very little,” he said.
Downey Schmidt discussed strategies with the group to fight the governor’s attempt to eliminate state funding for the arts commission.
She suggested attendees write letters to legislators with personal accounts about how the arts are important in their lives, write letters to the editor supporting the arts and urge businesses to post signs in their windows supporting the arts commission.
She also suggested collecting the 29 cents per person the state currently pays for the arts from people in the community and deliver it to the governor.
If state funding is cut for the Kansas Arts Commission, the state will spend about .07 cents per Kansas resident on the arts, the lowest per resident rate in the United States