Your City

How much is art worth to the city of St. John’s? Over the past few weeks city councilors have heard plenty of recommendations on how much money to spend, and now they have some decisions to make about arts funding for 2010. So what does this mean for the citizens of St. John’s, coming into a year of many tough economic questions? Let’s lay out the short and skinny of it.

The Municipal Arts Plan, written by the Arts Advisory Committee, was released with little fanfare during the election, and remained a non-issue late with all of the hype about mil rates and water bans. That plan recommends increasing per capita funding for city arts grants like so:

This would increase with every new person St. John’s attracts. The numbers above assume the city’s population won’t grow from 2009 to 2011. Given that St. John’s is one of a few places in the province seeing an increase in population, we would be likely to see funding exceed what’s written here.

How much art should the city buy? The last increase for this program was way back in 2002, when it was doubled from $10,000 to $20,000. Now the Jury respectfully recommends the budget be again doubled to $40,000. An increase of $20,000 is a relative drop in the $200 million bucket that the city’s 2010 budget is sure to be.

All of these recommendations have been given to the budget committee for 2010.

That committee is currently consulting with the city’s various departments and committees—who wants what and who needs what in 2010. Lucky for you, the city is also encouraging public input on the whole thing.

The biggest budget decision might be the amount to decrease the mil rate—the rate used to calculate property taxes. A decrease in the mil rate of 1 per cent would mean a loss of just over $9.4 million to city’s coffers. Reductions of as much as 3 per cent have been muttered about since the fall election.

St. John’s is entering what is going to be a very profitable few years for some. As a city we need to decide where our priorities lie. If art is truly a priority to this city, as its many documents and plans state, St. John’s needs to put its money where its mouth is and find a way to increase funding to the arts in the 2010 budget.

I encourage you all to send your own priorities and ideas for the 2010 budget to a representative of council. A presentation on the 2010 budget, past budgets, and contact information for council members are available on the city’s website at

What do you think about municipal funding for the arts? Leave a comment below.