Tuolumne County arts funding restored

By Alex MacLean / The Union Democrat

The Tuolumne County Board of Supervisors approved a final budget Tuesday that restores funding to a local arts organization which was cut from an earlier plan.

The Tuolumne County Arts Alliance will receive $45,000 from the county this year out of the final $168 million fiscal plan that's good through June 30, 2015. The total amount is about $5 million more than the recommended budget adopted by the board on June 17.

At the budget hearings in June, the board decided to cut $45,000 from the Tuolumne County Arts Alliance to help pay for an additional full-time attorney position in the Office of the County Counsel. Supervisors at the earlier hearings expressed interest in restoring thealliance's funding if money was available in the final budget proposal.

Constance O'Connor, the alliance's executive director, said the county's support has become increasingly important as other funding sources for the arts have dried up in recent years.

"We've struggled mightily over the past few years trying to maintain the same level of (services) that we provided years ago when we were funded at a higher rate," she said. "The last two years of funding you have awarded us have been extremely helpful."

The board every year approves a recommended budget typically in June and waits until around September to vote on a final budget, so that it can incorporate state and federal spending as well.

County Administrator Craig Pedro said the $5 million increase from June reflects about $3 million set aside for proposed labor contracts and a new county jail, plus higher than expected year-end balances in a number of county funds.

This year's $168 million budget also represents a nearly 13 percent increase in spending from last year's budget due almost entirely to the inclusion of $16.8 million for a new juvenile hall.

"That's one of the largest one-time projects we've had in county history, so that really makes a big change to the budget," Pedro said.

For the complete story, see the Sept. 3, 2014, edition of The Union Democrat.

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