City discusses funding for area organizations

Published 9:57 am Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Discussion on next year’s funding for outside organizations supported by the city began in earnest Tuesday as a few groups presented to the Austin City Council.

The city has proposed to reduce funding to these various organizations by $20,000 total in 2010, and Tuesday was an opportunity for two such groups to make their case for as much funding as possible.

First, representatives from the Austin Symphony Orchestra told the council why the symphony is so important to the city.

Email newsletter signup

The 52-year-old symphony received $5,000 from the city in 2008 but half that in 2009.

“Everyone has some connection with (the symphony),” symphony board vice president Paul Worlein said. “Hopefully you’ll see fit to fund the program.”

Mayor Tom Stiehm said while 2010 might not be the year to increase funding, cutting more might be a bad idea, too.

“(The symphony) adds to our city’s identity,” he said. “We would start hearing from people if we cut it.”

Councilwoman Marian Clennon said she has enjoyed going to shows in the past.

“It is a real treat to have something like that (in Austin),” she said.

John Garry, executive director of the Development Corporation of Austin, next told the council that economic development should be a priority.

The DCA received $80,000 from the city in 2008 but only $60,000 in 2009.

Garry said he respected that the council has tough decisions to make with its budget, but noted that sustaining support for businesses would help Austin through tough economic times.

The key, he said, will be to focus on helping small, local businesses grow, a sentiment that Stiehm agreed with.

Councilman Brian McAlister also agreed that now would be a poor time to turn away from economic development.

“When you’re bleeding, it’s probably not the time to stop buying Band-Aids,” he said.

City administrator Jim Hurm said more outside organizations have already scheduled time to meet with the council later this summer, while the city is working to find good days for others.

The city is slated to meet with KSMQ regarding the program “Cities on the Move” and the Austin Community Band on Aug. 3. The Austin Human Rights Commission will meet with the council on Aug. 17.

Hurm said he hoped to have 2010 budget decisions regarding outside organizations completed by the end of August.