New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's preliminary FY2004 budget calls for $102.5 million for the city Department of Cultural Affairs. The funds would include $86.7 million for cultural institutions and $12.3 million for program groups, i.e., grants for not-for-profit organizations such as theatres and dance companies. The new plan would eliminate the $2 million Cultural Challenge program.
The city is looking at a possible $4 billion deficit in 2004, and Bloomberg has constantly looked for ways to cut back city departments' funding since he came into office.
The city's Independent Budget Office—in its March analysis of the mayor's preliminary budget—is comparing the proposed 2004 funding to the June 2002 financial plan, which had set the DCA budget at $123.4 million. Using that figure, the 2004 budget would cut the DCA by 17%.
The Cultural Institutions Group, 34 organizations such as the Public Theater which are usually housed in city-owned property, will see a 15% cut from last June's financial-plan figures. About three-quarters of the CIG's funding usually goes for basic operations, with the other 25% going for energy costs. For FY2004, that would give the CIG $60 million for operations and $26.6 million for energy expenses.
"With energy costs rising, the cuts will have to be taken from basic operating support," IBO's March analysis says of CIG. "Several institutions have announced that they will respond to the combination of slower fundraising, a drop-off in visitors to the city, and budget cuts by reducing opening hours, scaling back or eliminating programs, and charging higher admission fees."
The preliminary budget also includes $512,000 to fund collective bargaining agreements for CIG maintenance workers.
Each year, the DCA's program section provides grants ranging from $5,000 to $2 million for 500 nonprofit arts organizations. The mayor's preliminary budget would cut $3.6 million, or 18% from the programs funding.
Elimination of the Cultural Challenge program would scrap competitive grants to cultural programs throughout the city. According to IBO, in 2002 the Cultural Challenge awarded 156 grants totaling $5 million.
The mayor will release a final budget plan, called the executive budget, probably in mid-April. The City Council will conduct public hearings on that budget in May.