Columbia Association may cut funds for arts festival

Organizers say they may have to cancel event

February 24, 2010|By Larry Carson | larry.carson@baltsun.com

The Columbia Association board has voted preliminarily to cut funds to the Columbia Festival of the Arts, which organizers say might force them to cancel the popular June event.

On Monday, the CA board tentatively voted against annual community grants, including a $95,000 contribution to the arts festival. A final decision on the proposed $59.3 million operating budget is scheduled for Wednesday. Other cuts included $6,000 for a July Fourth fireworks display that is mostly paid for by county government. The association board agreed to continue providing free towels to members of three association gyms.

Nichole J. Hickey, executive director of the Columbia Festival of the Arts, said a cut in CA funding would threaten the entire event, particularly the first three days of free activities on the lakefront.

"This is huge. We would have to revisit the entire festival," she said. The overall festival budget is $700,000.

Brochures advertising the June 11-26 festival are to be delivered to a printer next week, she said, and "contract offers are out and license agreements are out."

The straw votes Monday night reversed several of CA President Phillip Nelson's recommendations that would have saved more money by eliminating a part-time community organizer in Oakland Mills and not hiring a full-time watershed manager. Instead, the board voted not only to keep the Oakland Mills organizer, but to hire another one for Wilde Lake, and to fill the watershed post.

Board members voted to cut $60,000 from the total $260,000 devoted to charitable grants, and said they want Nelson to have discretion to decide what to do with the rest.

"It's not an entitlement from year to year," said Kathleen Dragovich of Dorsey's Search. Other groups that get money from CA are Neighbor Ride - the low-cost transportation service for seniors - Spirit of Columbia Scholarships, and Howard County's Home Repair and Modification Program, which helps residents who cannot pay for items required under the planned town's covenants.

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