Arts Brace For Austerity As Neall Freezes Grants

October 25, 1991|By Paul Shread | Paul Shread,Staff writer

Representatives of 36 arts groups showed up at the annual dinner of the Anne Arundel County Commission on Culture and the Arts last nightexpecting to receive $107,400 in grants.

Instead, they learned that County Executive Robert R. Neall had frozen the money until the county strikes a revised fiscal 1992 budget next month.

In addition to money awarded by the commission, Neall froze an additional $547,000 in direct grants to social services and arts groups.

But Neall spokeswoman Louise Hayman said all of the grants will probably be restored when Neall presents a new budget to the County Council Nov. 14.

"It's a timing thing," Hayman said. "We want to freeze everything until we can figure out what we have. By Nov. 14, everyone will know what the county executive's intention is with respectto the grants." But in the meantime, arts and social services groupsare worried.

"I'm nervously hopeful that everything will work out," said Michael Bailey, executive director of Maryland Hall. "I don'twant to make a bigger issue out of it than it is, but if we lose ourgrant money, the result would be devastating."

Maryland Hall had $45,000 in grant money frozen, or about 6 percent of its budget. About $35,000 goes to operating expenses, and another $10,000 goes to an arts program for the underprivileged.

"The outreach program is howwe get Maryland Hall out into the community," Bailey said.

Several Annapolis groups received a total of $33,000 in grants from that city Wednesday night, but the money they stand to lose from the county is in some cases much greater. The Annapolis Symphony Orchestra, for example, is slated for $17,000 in county grant money, but it received$6,200 in city money.

Of the groups affected by the direct grantsfrozen by Neall, the Community Action Agency stands to lose the most, at $170,000. Legal Aid and the St. John's College Art Gallery wouldhave received $20,000 each, the Teachers Scholarship Program $30,000, and the Helping Hand homeless shelter $12,500.

The county gives grant money to several Baltimore institutions visited by county schoolchildren. Last week, the county sent a check for $12,500 to Center Stage in Baltimore, just days after Neall asked county employees to take a pay cut to cover a $7.9 million loss in state aid to the county.

"It slipped through the cracks," Hayman said. "If we had known about it, it wouldn't have gone out."

A total of $22,000 in grant money to Baltimore institutions, including the zoo and City Life Museum, has been frozen.

Neall is expected to announce a $23 million cost-saving plan at a press conference this afternoon. The plan will cover $17.3 million in state aid the county has lost in two rounds of state budget-cutting. It also will include money for other programs cutby the state, such as drug and alcohol treatment centers.

Hayman said the plan should get the county through the remainder of the fiscal year in good shape, even if the state orders further cuts to regional aid in January.

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