City arts coordinator contract renewal delayed |

City arts coordinator contract renewal delayed

Sarah Gonser

Claiming the issue was not about art and its desirability in South Lake Tahoe, the South Lake Tahoe City Council opted Tuesday against renewing the city arts development coordinator’s contract for another year.

Instead, it opted for a 60-day extension only, pending further discussion at annual budget hearings in September.

“I have spent so much time thinking about this. I think art has a place in this community, my concern is that we should maybe be using the promotional dollars that pay her salary for other purposes,” said Councilmember Brooke Laine. “My desire is for the council to come together and decide exactly what promotional funds should be used for and what our priorities are. This is a discussion we need to have in the near future.”

The original issue before the council was a request to increase arts coordinator Phylise Walker’s salary to $42,200 – totaling a $10,200 raise since she first took the job five years ago.

According to city manager Kerry Miller, the raise represents fair compensation for an increased work load.

“Phylise has single-handedly developed the arts program in this community. She brings a tremendous amount of expertise and experience to the job – we’re fortunate to have her,” Miller said. “If there have been some negative comments, it’s because of the age-old debate about whether public monies should be used to support the arts – not whether Phylise can do the job.”

According to Miller, Walker was originally hired in 1994, with a $30,000 salary drawn from the city’s general fund promotional dollars, to create and direct an arts commission. Walker’s subsequent salary increases were, and still are, taken from the redevelopment fund.

“Over four years her involvement with redevelopment has grown immensely, taking up 30 to 40 percent of her time,” Miller said. “The salary increase simply recognizes the increased scope of her work. It is not performance related.”

But according to Councilman Bill Crawford, Walker’s position is a salary burden the city should consider carefully.

“My belief is her program has become an entity onto itself – with considerable draw in the city manager’s office,” Crawford said. “Her salary has increased almost 30 to 40 percent over the last four years, I think the jump is too big. I think at this point we need to slow down and see if the arts commission can do its job without a high-salary director.”

Walker, who was previously employed as the Fresno, Calif., arts council director, will have an increased job description to accompany this year’s $2,200-plus-expenses raise. Along with increased grant administration duties, she will be responsible for continuing the mural program and the artist’s studio tours. She will also be dealing with public art planning and design in the redevelopment project areas, and act as a liaison between the city and the arts community.

According to Walker, at least 50 people are involved in arts commission projects.

“There’s a lot of community support for this program and I’m very thankful for that,” Walker said.

BREAKOUT: What the arts commission has done in four years, according to Phylise Walker, arts development coordinator

– By the end of this year, the arts commission will have completed nine murals throughout the city of South Lake Tahoe and Meyers. Since 1995, the commission has raised $68,736 for the murals.

– The commission is hosting its fourth annual artists’ studio tour, which, according to Walker, attracted nearly 300 guests last year.

– The commission offers technical assistance workshops and mural apprenticeships for artists.

– In December, the commission will have completed a feasibility study to determine support and need for a community art center. The needs assessment study is being funded by a Nevada Arts Council and a National Endowment for the Arts grant.

– Three pieces of public art have been developed for the Ski Run Marina area in the past year, as well as a marina sign. Most are nearly complete.

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