Commissioners Howard, Hales and Crawford give away $30,000 without going through normal budget process

Pittsboro, NC – After the Chatham County commissioners unanimously approved the 2015-2016 Chatham County budget, commissioner Karen Howard decided to make a motion that the board of commissioners provide $30,000 from contingency funds for the Chatham Arts Council to use for the artisan residency program at Virginia Cross and North Chatham schools. Commissioner Hales seconded the motion.

Barrel of moneyMs. Paschal asked if the $30,000 is in addition to the money that has already been set aside in EDC. Commissioner Howard stated it is.

Commissioner Walter Petty asked why this request would not go through the normal budget process like all other request instead of being added on at the last minute. There has been no formal request or presentation by this group and he believes $30,000 requires a group to explain to the Board why they need the money and how they intend to use it.

Commissioner Karen Howard stated the Director of the Arts Council was present if anyone had any questions and the organization had made several presentations to the Board about the importance of investing in the arts.

Commissioner Walter Petty stated if this was something the Board truly wanted to support in the early stages of the budgeting process it should have been presented in the early stages of the budgeting process, not at the last minute. If $30,000 is needed a presentation is warranted.

Commissioner Karen Howard stated staff has said it is acceptable for the Board to do this at this stage of the process.

Vice Chairman Mike Cross stated it is legally acceptable but he does not know that it is acceptable to the public. He agrees that the Board doesn’t have to be in such a rush and they can hear a presentation about what the $30,000 is going to be used for. He also agrees in supporting the arts but why is there such a rush?

Commissioner Howard stated the artisan residence program does have a time factor. They have to get artists lined up for the new school year. Commissioner Diana Hales stated the idea is to stimulate more programs under the umbrella of the Chatham Arts Council. There needs to be a more comprehensive approach to funding the arts going forward.

Chairman Jim Crawford asked if Commissioner Karen Howard would accept an amendment to  the motion that it would be conditional upon a presentation. Commissioner Howard stated she was not prepared to postpone but she would allow a presentation.

Commissioner Diana Hales asked if it was known how quickly the Arts Council needed the funds in order to be able to move forward with the program.

Commissioner Karen Howard stated their next meeting is late July. If the Board waits to have a presentation and a discussion at the July meeting then the Arts Council won’t receive the funding until August and school starts in August. They need to secure the students in July.

Commissioner Petty asked why this wasn’t brought to the Board earlier in the budget process if time was an issue.

Commissioner Howard stated she takes full responsibility for that. She should have brought it to the Board earlier. Having considered it later she is still prepared to bring it to the Board and stand by it.

Chairman Jim Crawford called for a vote.

A motion was made by Commissioner Howard, seconded by Commissioner Hales, that the Board provide $30,000 from contingency funds for the Chatham Arts Council to use for the artisan residency program at Virginia Cross and North Chatham schools. The motion carried by the following vote: Aye: 3 – Chairman Crawford, Commissioner Hales and Commissioner Howard; No: 2 – Vice Chair Cross and Commissioner Petty.

Later in the meeting Commissioner Walter Petty made the motion, seconded by Vice Chair Mike Cross, to withdraw the $30,000 contribution to Chatham Arts Council until public input can be had on the topic. The motion failed by the following vote: Aye: 2 – Vice Chair Mike Cross and Commissioner Walter Petty No: 3 – Chairman Jim Crawford, Commissioner Hales and Commissioner Howard