A five-cent proposed property tax rate increase wasn’t the topic that generated the most interest during a recent Apex Town Council public hearing. It was the Halle Cultural Arts Center.
While looking for savings during a recent budget workshop Apex Councilman Bill Jensen proposed cutting operation hours on days when the arts center was underused. He also suggested partnering with businesses to boost rentals.
The center, now in its fourth year, cost $244,194 to operate last year. It brought in $56,397 in revenue. The facility has three full-time employees and eight to 10 part-time workers depending on shows.
Residents and Halle Cultural Art Center fans passionately argued against any cuts to the facility budget.
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Apex native Molly Weston said historical lectures and author visits have been beneficial to bringing in nonresidents.
“I can remember when we did not have an auditorium,” Weston said. “I used to go to Raleigh all of the time. (Tuesday) was the first time I was there in three weeks. I hope you will not cut any money for Halle Center. It is a priceless gem.”
Raleigh Little Theatre instructor Kathleen Rudolph has seen her classes at the Halle Arts Center grow and has been hoping to expand her classes to homeschooled students.
“The arts bring tourism to Apex,” Rudolph said. “The Halle was created to inspire a love of the arts. The Halle is one of reasons Apex is such an attractive place.”
Apex United Methodist Church Pastor José Villaseñor asked the council to consider expanding the arts center, not reducing services.
“The Halle center has something that is really intangible,” said Villaseñor. “I think places have spirits to themselves.”
For his son Diego, the Halle means arts and church because Apex United Methodist Church rents there every Sunday, Villaseñor said.
He said he understands that economic times have been tough.
“We (the church) were planning to expand our facilities and put it on hold,” Villaseñor said. “There are better times ahead of us...We need places like the Halle open.”
Mayor Protem Gene Schulze recommended raising the art center’s advertising budget to help increase rentals and revenues. Currently the town pays about $3,500 to $4,770 a year in advertising. Staff has been asked to come up with a draft proposal.
The Holly Springs Cultural Arts Center spends about $45,850 a year in advertising and generated about $115,000 in revenue last year, said Holly Springs Parks and Recreation Director Len Bradley.
But he said it isn’t fair to compare the two sites. The Holly Springs arts facility includes a library and the building is bigger. Holly Springs also spent $557,175 last year to operate the center, nearly double Apex’s expenses. Bradley said last year’s budget included a capital purchase.
No cuts have been made or planned for the Halle Cultural Arts Center.
Schulze said he would keep an eye on the center this upcoming year to see if it can be more cost effective.