Council hears budget pleas

Nonprofit groups state their case

Staff WriterJune 5, 2007 

— The City Council went through its annual Economics 101 exercise Monday -- learning yet again that there is far more demand for public funds than supply.

A public hearing on City Manager Patrick Baker's proposed $337 million budget for the 2007-08 fiscal year drew dozens of residents, many representing local nonprofit groups lobbying for public money. Some, such as Dennis Dickerson of the Durham Symphony, pleaded for more funding than the $14,450 Baker's proposed budget would provide the symphony.

"Every dollar is important to keep this wonderful orchestra going," Dickerson said. "It's been continually reduced over the years. The Durham Symphony uses its money with great care."

Several speakers suggested adding 1 cent to the property tax rate for affordable housing initiatives. Terry Allebaugh, executive director of Housing for New Hope, suggested that the 1-cent addition would spark funding from other sources.

"It can start something big," he said. "There's a lot that we can do, but it has to start here."

A common theme among the more than three dozen speakers was the importance of their respective groups to the community.

The American Dance Festival, now 30 years old, needs more money. The Durham Art Guild wants $10,000.

Representatives of the Duke-based Center for Documentary Studies, which would receive $8,100 from Baker's budget, lobbied hard for one of the center's youth programs.

Baker's budget plan would include nearly $1.5 million for 34 area nonprofit agencies that support the arts, historic preservation and various mentoring and support programs for troubled youth.

The Durham Arts Council would receive $581,000 under Baker's plan, the largest single allotment. Baker's budget would include a tax increase amounting to 1 cent per $100 of property value, or $15 per year on a $150,000 home. The council is expected to approve the budget June 18.

The five nonprofit agencies slated to receive the most public money in Baker's budget are:

* Durham Arts Council -- $581,000.

* St. Joseph's Historic Foundation -- $292,000.

* Durham Affordable Housing -- $73,157.

* Training for Success/New Horizons -- $58,975.

* American Dance Festival -- $56,858.

Staff writer Eric Ferreri can be reached at 956-2415 or eric.ferreri@newsobserver.com.

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