Facing a dwindling revenue stream, Mecklenburg County’s preeminent arts organization is trying to get elected officials to dedicate a new sales tax to them.
The Arts & Science Council was founded in the 1950s as something similar to the United Way, except for arts organizations. They collected as much as $11 million per year mostly through workplace donation drives, with Charlotte’s large employers encouraging their workers to make annual pledges to the ASC. The council would then distribute the money to nonprofits, museums and cultural organizations.
However, post-financial crisis, these types of campaigns have fallen out of favor — and the Arts & Science Council’s income has dwindled.
“Organizations are in crisis, and they might be lost,” ASC chairwoman Valencia McDowell told county commissioners, according to WBTV. “I’m not just talking about small organizations, I’m talking across the board. We are putting a strain on the system that is unsustainable.”
Their solution? The ASC is now recommending that Mecklenburg County approve a quarter-cent sales tax increase, with a large chunk of the money going straight to the council. Such a sales tax increase would raise roughly $50 million per year. The ASC is asking for $20 million of that, or 40% of the proceeds.
Mecklenburg County voters would need to approve the sales tax increase by referendum. Previous efforts to get a sales tax increase approved have failed.
County taxpayers already contribute several million dollars per year to the Arts & Science Council through the county’s annual budget.