Metro area voters will be asked to re-approve the longstanding Scientific and Cultural Facilities District tax, which helps fund about 300 arts and culture organizations in the seven-county Front Range corridor
The future fitness of stages, museums and galleries across the metroplex will be appearing on the ballot this November under the guise of ballot measure 4B.
Metro area voters will be asked to re-approve the longstanding Scientific and Cultural Facilities District tax, which helps fund about 300 arts and culture organizations in the seven-county Front Range corridor: Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas and Jefferson counties.
First approved in 1988, SCFD funds are generated by a 1-cent tax on every $10 spent in the seven participating counties. Last year, the levy netted about $54 million for about 275 arts organizations, according to the SCFD 2015 annual report. The number of approved organizations has swelled to about 300 this year.
How the SCFD pot is distributed has come under fire in recent years as the number of smaller organizations has ballooned, while the majority of the district’s revenues have continued to be distributed to “the big five” cultural organizations in Denver. Those organizations, which absorbed about 65.5 percent of the total SCFD pot in 2015, include the Denver Zoo, Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Denver Art Museum, Denver Botanic Gardens and the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, the latter of which received the most funding of any organization in 2015, with about $8.7 million of the total.
Last fall, the SCFD board of directors approved a new distribution structure that calls for a steady increase in funding for the myriad smaller Tier II and Tier III cultural outlets through the next reauthorization period in 2030. In dollars, the new plan could mean $15.3 million more for Tier III entities and an extra $22 million for Tier II organizations between 2018 and the end of the next decade. The proposed structure would decrease funding for the “big five” Tier I organizations in Downtown Denver by $37.3 million, according to SCFD.
In 2015, the 28 designated Tier II organizations were allocated nearly $11 million, and 246 Tier III groups were granted $7.7 million. Under the new plan, those numbers would swell to annual totals of $21 million for Tier II and $13.6 million for Tier III by 2030, according to SCFD calculations.
In Aurora, the city’s cultural services department (a Tier II organization) receives the largest portion of SCFD funds — a total that topped nearly $285,000 in 2015. Other local organizations receiving SCFD funding include The Vintage Theatre, Ignite Theatre, the Aurora Singers and Kim Robards Dance, among others.
In 2016, Tier III organizations were granted $1,134,364.59 in Adams County and $1,589,604.38 in Arapahoe County. Denver groups in the same tier received $2,184,674.00.
If approved, the tax would be extended for an additional 12 years.
Both Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan and Denver Mayor Michael Hancock have voiced support for the measure.
“Art and culture is a great way to reflect the soul of a community,” Hogan said in a statement. “And Aurora is a proud partner in supporting art and culture for our citizens and all citizens.”
For more information, visit scfd.org.
-Quincy Snowdon, Aurora Sentinel