City struggles with role of arts, cost of coordinating
After deciding last week not to renew the city arts coordinator’s contract for another year, the South Lake Tahoe City Council is now debating the role and priority of art at South Shore within budgetary frameworks.
“We are very seriously looking at funding for the arts – it could be bigger than just the arts commission and the position (of arts coordinator) that we’re talking about,” said councilmember Brooke Laine. “The reason we decided to only extend that position for 60 days – instead of one whole year – was so we could make more concrete decisions, look at various funding opportunities, and determine how best the city can support the arts.”
Originally, the council was considering a request to extend arts coordinator Phylise Walker’s contract another year, and increase her salary to $42,000 – totaling a $10,200 raise since she first took the job five years ago.
Instead, with only Mayor Judy Brown abstaining, the council decided to extend Walker’s contract by only 60 days, pending further discussion at the Sept. 7 annual budget hearings.
In the meantime, councilmembers are struggling with the issue.
“I don’t form opinions until I am fully informed. We need to look at her performance, the amount of money being spent, etc.,” said councilmember Hal Cole. “I had misgivings when the position was first created and I was told it would generate enough money to sustain itself. Now it seems the grant side of the position is tapering away. I want to look at alternatives and see if this is the best way to do this.”
Laine stressed that her concern was not about Walker’s actual position as arts coordinator, or even specific work she had completed.
“The real issue for me is about whether the City Council agrees that the arts should be funded from the two percent promotional funds,” Laine said. “I want to know if we are clear on how we spend our promotional dollars, and do we all agree that they are being spent in the best possible way?”
According to city manager Kerry Miller, Walker was 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 because of her increased involvement in that area of planning.
Laine said the city council is currently meeting once a week to discuss and examine city funding issues and priorities in preparation for the September budget discussions.
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