By Art Holliday
ST. LOUIS (KSDK) - Tough decisions have to be made when it comes to a state budget. Just ask anyone connected to an arts organization.
Kelly Pollack, executive director of COCA, watches a group of 3-year-old girls in an afternoon ballet class.
"We receive multiple grants from the Missouri Arts Council," said Pollack. "They fund organizations all over the state."
Pollack recently spent time in Jefferson City, lobbying state legislators debating the state budget. Governor Jay Nixon wants to increase state funding for the Missouri Arts Council, while other legislators want to cut arts funding. State budgets are leaner than ever and some would say if arts organizations get less money, that's the new normal because there's less state money for everybody.
If you're one of the 600-plus organizations that receive funding from the Missouri Arts Counci, like COCA, you're getting nervous about the 2014 state budget.
"Absolutely, we get anxious when they're debating these tough issues at budget time," Pollack said.
The Missouri Arts Council provides funds to the St. Louis Symphony, The Art Museum, and numerous other organizations. Statewide, 653 arts organizations depend on funding from the Missouri Arts Council. MAC executive director Beverly Strohmeyer says funding has been dwindling the past few years.
"Our highest budget was $9.7 million in 2009," said Strohmeyer. "This year our budget was only $5.3 million, which is a reduction of 45 percent. The governor actually recommended a $4.2 million increase, which we were really surprised to see. If we don't get at least $3.6 million, we'll have to reduce our budget again."
Pollack says state arts organizations generate jobs and dollars statewide.
"We have been doing more with less and the arts have proven themselves in doing more with less. As an economic engine, just in St. Louis alone the arts generate more than $500 million in economic revenue for the region," said Pollack. "Here in St. Louis, we've been a growing economy, we've been growing employment."
The Missouri House Budget Committee has a key vote on Wednesday, and Stroymeyer hopes lawmakers listen to Governor Nixon proposal.
"We've been taking our cuts and now it's our turn to get funded," he said.