Area Arts Organizations Plan For Less Money From Cigarette Tax in 2015

The NEA's Jamie Bennett says Cuyahoga County's cigarette tax for arts and culture is a national model
The NEA's Jamie Bennett says Cuyahoga County's cigarette tax for arts and culture is a national model
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Cuyahoga County voters okayed a thirty-cents-a-pack tax on cigarettes in 2005, which generates about 16-million-dollars a year, and funds just under 200 organizations and special projects. Ideastream gets annual operating support from the cigarette tax revenue.

In town for a City Club appearance, this past September, the National Endowment for the Arts' Jamie Bennett said this arts funding model is influential.

JAMIE BENNETT: What Cuyahoga County has done with this and the dedicated funding stream is something that folks are really looking to as a national example.

The University of Chicago issued a study this year ranking the County's funding method as better than public arts spending in cities like San Francisco, Boston and Philadelphia. But, it's a funding method in decline. Revenues were down five percent, this year --- perhaps due to a drop in smoking or an increase in the use of e-cigarettes, or possibly a combination of the two. Cuyahoga Arts and Culture distributes the cigarette tax funds. Executive Director Karen Gahl-Mills says the revenue drop was not a surprise.

KAREN GAHL-MILLS: We've known since this resource was established, that the money was going to get smaller over time. All of our grant programs and anything that we do is going to see a cut in funding in 2015.

And with the cigarette tax due to sunset in 2016, supporters are likely to mount a campaign to renew, this year. Another option could include finding a new revenue source to supplement the cigarette tax funds.

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