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Arlington County. Artisphere, and Financial Commitments

The Arlington Connection's Michael Lee Pope posted a story this past Wednesday, which says Arlington County will reconsider its financial commitment to the artsy crowd's Artisphere.

 We've growled previously about this drain on Arlington taxpayers -- including October 26, 2012; June 19, 2012; May 9, 2012; and, April 6, 2012. There was more growling in 2011. When we growled on October 26, we pointed out that each visitor to the Artisphere was subsidized $41.85.

Pope explains the background

We had some really overly optimistic projections,” said Annalisa Meyer, marketing director for Artisphere. “The initial business plan that said we were going to be sold out from day one, which doesn’t happen for any art center organization.” (emphasis added)

"That business plan was spiked, and another one was drawn up. Now county leaders are rexaminging their commitment to the operation.

“At some point in the very near future, it was felt that it could be self-sustaining and that the county could remove all financial support,” said Karen Vasquez, director of Cultural Affairs for Arlington County. “But that’s just not the case. Arts and cultural facilities across the country exist with the ssupport at the local, state or federal levels.”

"County taxpayers have kicked in about $2 million a year to help launch the art center. But now county leaders are moving forward with a new plan to remove about half of the regular funding and replace it with one-time money — a move toward withdrawing public money and letting the operation finance itself.

"As we are mid-way through our second full year of operations, I am assessing its performance and programming model,” wrote Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan in her budget proposal. “The combination of one-time and ongoing funds will allow us to pursue a variety of options as we consider the future of the Artisphere.”

Pope adds, "Last month, (County Manager Barbara) Donnellan proposed an operating budget that sets aside $900,000 in regular funding and $900,000 in one-time funding. That means that the museum may have to raise more of its own money after next year. County leaders say the long-term plans for the art center have always included a withdrawal of public money, and that the current budget squeeze sets the stage for the operation being able to maintain itself.

If the Board votes to increase the real estate tax rate above the 3.2 cents recommended in the County Manager's proposed FY 2014 budget, it's very likely more of your tax dollars will be used to make up for those "overly optimistic (financial) projections."

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