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City council grants more funding to BIAHC

Supporters sign a petition at last week
Supporters sign a petition at last week's rally for the arts.
— image credit: Brad Camp

Though it didn’t match the total funding requested, the Bainbridge Island Arts and Humanities Council received an extra $43,000 from the City Council Wednesday.

The vote to increase funding for the arts from its base of $136,000 to $179,000 came after the council debated several different dollar amounts. The final vote was four in favor with two abstentions. Councilor Hilary Franz abstained after an impassioned speech in which she wished the council would have been able to come up with extra money for people like liveaboards who could soon lose their spots in the harbor.

“I have a really hard time with this because I value the arts and I value people’s lives that are going to be displaced very shortly based on decisions this council will be making,” Franz said.

Morgan Smith, executive director of BIAHC, said she appreciated the council’s diligence in searching for more arts and humanities funding.

Smith originally proposed an additional $122,000 in funding, but the council determined the city couldn’t afford it.

“We are very grateful to have thoughtful consideration of our request given the financial troubles faced by the city,” she said.

Smith said the extra funds will allow BIAHC to award better-funded grants to arts and humanities organizations.

Interim City Manager Lee Walton identified five sources of funds the city could use for the arts and humanities (Gravel Roads Maintenance Contract, City Hall Landscape Services Contract, Japanese Knotweed control, Trust for Working Landscapes, and Kitsap County Conservation District). From those five sources, council member Darlene Kordonowy originally asked for an extra $73,000 in arts and humanities funding, but that eventually was reduced.

Councilor Barry Peters suggested that the city keep the funding at its original level of $136,000. He questioned whether giving more to arts and humanities was a sustainable financial practice.

Councilor Kjell Stoknes said the city has to look at its finances like a household.

“As your revenue goes down, you spend more of your money on basic needs and less of your money on those things that are optional,” he said.

Kordonowy said the arts and humanities are an important enterprise on Bainbridge. In an area with limited sources of revenue, the city needs everything it can get.

“This community doesn’t have a broad base of economic development,” she said. “What we do have is the creativity of this community that really brings people to this island. This is not a time when we should cut the funding that keeps the doors of our non profits open, keeps people creating.”

At last week’s council meeting, more than 100 arts and humanities supporters dressed in red and spoke to the financial and cultural value of the arts on Bainbridge.

The outpouring of support continued at Wednesday’s meeting, with several individuals assuring the council that additional funding for the arts will help the city.

“Funding the arts pays for itself and more,” said BIAHC treasurer Mike Lewars. “Our city could not spend the small amount we request more wisely.”

The amendment to the budget, along with four others, will have its third reading at the Dec. 9 council meeting.

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