New Jersey Arts Council Suffers Last-Minute Budget Cuts

Classic Arts News   New Jersey Arts Council Suffers Last-Minute Budget Cuts
During the hectic final negotiations to settle their budget deal this week, New Jersey state lawmakers cut the grants budget of the New Jersey State Council on the Arts by 15 percent.

According to a report yesterday in the Newark-based Star-Ledger, the reduction was half again as much as the 10 percent cut originally proposed by Governor Jon Corzine. The total grants budget approved for the Council now stands at $19.1 million, down from its high of $22.7 million last year.

"We're deeply disappointed," Mark Packer, executive director of Appel Farm Arts & Music Center in Elmer, told the Star-Ledger, "Our expectation was we would remain at 10 percent, which we felt was a fair share of the burden."

The NJSCA will now postpone its annual July 25 meeting, at which it votes on the majority of the its grants, to August 8. The body received 379 applications for funding this year which amounted to over $44.8 million, both record highs. Less money will now have to be shared by more groups and these organizations receiving state aid should expect cuts of at least 15 percent, according to the Star-Ledger.

These cuts will have serious consequences. "Art organizations will be forced to cut those programs which are the least revenue-generating or non-revenue generating, and unfortunately those are the programs offered in schools, and for at-risk children," Packer explained.

Lawmakers restored most of the direct legislative grants to arts groups that Corzine's plan called for cutting, including that to the Newark Museum, which will receive $4 million, $1.6 million more than Corzine proposed. His 50 percent reduction to the $3 million budget line for the Battleship New Jersey in Camden was restored. The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra received $1 million, which will fund its educational programs in Newark. The Community Theatre and Montclair Art Museum will pay for improvements for their facilities, as NJSCA grants cannot be used for capital projects.

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