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County board debates funding for arts organizations

Cook County Courthouse and government offices. WTIP file photo
Cook County Courthouse and government offices. WTIP file photo

There was a meeting of the Cook County Board of Commissioners Tuesday, Aug. 13.

Toward the end of Tuesday’s meeting, the board engaged in lengthy and varying discussions regarding the 2020 budget.   According to Auditor Braidy Powers, the initial levy, based on requests from the various departments across the county, will be a 4.03 percent increase over last year.  The levy takes into account the proposed reduction in the BWCA federal payments and the reduction of county bonding costs, according to Powers. However, there are still moving pieces to this 4.03 percent figure, and it could fluctuate before the preliminary levy is set in September.

Cook County Sheriff Pat Eliasen was the lone department head to address the board Tuesday about specific changes or requests for 2020. Eliasen says there are only a few and subtle changes in his funding requests this year, as is reflected in the amount needed for the sheriff’s department budget for 2020.

A more in-depth, or perhaps challenging budget discussion from Tuesday, focused on if the board wants provide non-mandated funds to local arts and culture organizations in 2020. The amount of non-mandated, or discretionary funds the county provides to local entities such as the Grand Marais Art Colony, North Shore Music Association and the Grand Marais Playhouse has fluctuated in recent years.

County Administrator Jeff Cadwell specifically asked the board if they would be providing arts and culture grants in 2020. Last year, for example, the board authorized $15,200 in arts and culture grants.

Commissioner Dave Mills says he would like to provide at least that amount of funding for local arts organizations in 2020. Commissioner Myron Bursheim supports that notion, and says it could be worth exploring the value of investing in arts organizations in the future.

With regard to the $15,200 the board provided last year through arts and culture grants to local organizations, Bursheim says that figure is marginal compared to the overall budget.

Meanwhile, Commissioner Bobby Deschampe said he would like to eliminate these types of funds for local arts and culture organizations, and says $15,200 is an amount worth paying attention to.

Commissioner Heidi Doo Kirk says the $15,000 might not seem like a great deal of money compared to the overall budget, but that costs like these do add up over the course of the year.

After lengthy discussion on this topic, the board voted 3-2 to provide arts and culture grants in 2020 not to exceed the amount of $15,200. Commissioners Deschampe and Doo-Kirk voted against the measure.

To hear audio and quotes on this topic from the Aug. 13 meeting of the county board, click below.