Q&A by Randall Kramer

I don’t go to the culturals. Why should I have to pay for something I don’t use?  

There are a lot of things that taxpayers fund that we may not directly utilize. For example, my son is a senior in high school, and after this year, I will have no children in the Amherst school system. So, why should I have to pay school taxes for the next few decades? The answer, of course, is that a strong school system is a necessity for a vibrant community. It impacts the quality of life and, ultimately, the value of our homes. Additionally, many people don’t attend sporting events and yet millions of our tax dollars go to support them. And I don’t work at Geico or Yahoo, heck, I’m not even sure if I know anyone who works there, and yet my tax dollars are part of their overall revenues. But I’m not complaining. Every one of these examples enhances the quality of life in our region. Just like the Arts.          
Why should I support something that is for a limited group of special interests?
It’s true that one can support an “off the beaten track” cultural and sometimes be one of the few patrons in the audience. But the overall impact of the Arts and Cultural community is enormous. There are over 2.5 million attendees at local cultural events and institutions on an annual basis. That’s more than the combined attendance of the Bills, Sabres and Bisons. Considering that we have approx. one million people in the Buffalo Niagara region, and that there is a certain amount of multiple Arts attendees in that 2.5 million figure, we are still looking at a minimum of a quarter million residents of Erie County that attend the Arts. That’s one in four people in your line at the grocery store or waiting for the teller at the bank . That’s not a special interest. That’s a community.
Why are the culturals still whining even though Chris Collins forged a new public-private funding agreement that saves me money?

The fact is that this is not new money being injected into our community. The private money in the Collins’ proposal is from local foundations. These foundations already support many of the culturals on an annual basis. Since they don’t have a bottomless pot of money, and they now have to use their funds to help replace County dollars, the end result will be overall lower funding levels for all cultural organizations. 
No matter what, I don’t want my taxes increased. That’s why I don’t support cultural funding.

Not once in the entire budget debate was a tax increase even considered by Democrats or Republicans. Not once. In the Amendments that were originally passed by the Legislature, on a bipartisan basis, funding to the libraries and culturals were restored without any tax increases or one shot revenue gimmicks. The County Executive raided the surplus to fund his proposal for an additional 1.1 million dollars for libraries and culturals. The end result is, at best, a 20% reduction for the culturals with funding coming from a non sustainable one-time source. It didn’t have to be that way. 
Regardless of where you stand on the cultural funding issue, I hope this column has helped to answer some questions. The Greater Buffalo Cultural Alliance and the Theatre Alliance of Buffalo are not interested in engaging in petty politics and name calling. We are interested in continuing to build on a part of our community that is a significant social and economic force. We know there are no easy answers in this issue. But, we are committed to a dialogue and subsequent actions that will help to catapult Buffalo Niagara forward to a vibrant future that we can all share. 
Randall Kramer is a member of the GBCA (Greater Buffalo Cultural Alliance), the Vice President of the Theatre Alliance of Buffalo, and the Artistic and Executive Director of MusicalFare Theatre, a leading musical theatre company in the Northeast.