Kansas City Symphony Sues State of Missouri

Classic Arts News   Kansas City Symphony Sues State of Missouri
The Kansas City Symphony is suing the Missouri State Legislature, alleging that it has shortchanged the Missouri Arts Council Trust Fund by $83 million since 1987.

As one of the biggest arts organizations in the state, the KCSO should be a major beneficiary of the fund, according to the Kansas City Star.

The paper writes that the Missouri Arts Council survives on less than $500,000 annually, placing it 49th among state arts councils nationwide. But a decade ago, the legislature enacted a law requiring that half of the income taxes paid by out-of-state athletes and entertainers who worked in Missouri would be put in the newly established fund. That share was subsequently increased to 60%, with the aim of raising up to $10 million a year over 10 years. It was hoped this would make the council self-sustaining.

However, the KCSO's lawsuit alleges that the legislature has allocated only a fraction of the money called for under the statute; it reportedly allocated nothing in 2003, 2004 and 2005.

The Kansas City Symphony has an overall budget of about $10.5 million and received just $60,000 from the state last year, according to the Star.

"This isn't a gift that the legislature is giving. This is a statute requiring assistance to the arts," the orchestra's attorney, Richard W. Miller, who is also a member of the symphony's board, told the Star. Miller added that the state had misled Symphony donors, who contributed money to the organization expecting that the council (through the trust fund) would also do so.

The lawsuit states that one of the purposes of the fund is to provide an incentive to arts organizations "to raise private, long-term endowment funds and to encourage private individuals to contribute to the arts," according to the paper.

There has been no comment yet from the Missouri Attorney General's office or the State Treasurer.

The lawsuit was filed just as construction began last week of the $326 million Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts, which will be home to the Kansas City Symphony, the Lyric Opera of Kansas City and the Kansas City Ballet; the complex, designed by architect Moshe Safdie, is expected to open in fall 2009. The lawsuit is reportedly unrelated to the gap in the center's funding, about 80% of which has been raised.

The KCSO has not been joined by other local arts organizations. Miller told the paper they were perhaps anxious that what little state funding they received would be discontinued if they were seen to be part of the lawsuit.

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