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78 Percent of Cultural Programming Budget Saved

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According to Michael Spring, Director of the Miami-Dade County Department of Cultural Affairs, the budget adopted by the Board of County Commissioners at 5:01 a.m. this morning restored a little over $8.6 million to the department's arts grants for cultural programming, or about 78 percent of the $11 million originally requested.

"Yesterday, it was zero," Spring said, "so it's really good news."

What that means is that Spring doesn't expect any of the 400 cultural organizations who depend on the county seed money to lose its grant outright. It does mean, however, that some organizations will be receiving less money than last year.

Exactly who will be receiving what won't be known until at least next week, however, as the Department of Cultural Affairs takes the necessary time to process organization evaluation scores, do the math, etc. "Usually, we would know the number [overall funding available] weeks in advance and would have time to plug the numbers in," Spring explained.

As reported first by the South Florida Business Journal, the budget process received a jolt from a backroom meeting between Mayor Carlos Alvarez and County Manager George Burgess, who sent a memo to the Board of County Commissioners around 3:30 a.m. that said they'd found a way to respond to a majority of the Board's concerns.

In terms of arts funding, the key maneuver, according to Spring, was the diversion of $2 million away from the programming reserves for the yet-to-be-completed South Miami-Dade Cultural Arts Center and into the current Cultural Affairs budget. The Cutler Ridge-based arts center was supposed to be operational by the 2010-11 season, but due to construction delays, will not host its first event until the 2011-12 season, thereby freeing up the funds dedicated to what was supposed to be its first year of programming.

"We still have money for the 2011-12 season," Spring says, "but [the diversion] takes advantage of the delay."

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