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City Council-approved budget includes cuts that could mean higher fees at MAC

PMG PHOTO: BILL GALLAGHER - The annual Spring Arts and Crafts sale at the Multnomah Arts Center.Mayor Ted Wheeler's City Council- approved budget for the Portland Parks and Recreation Bureau extends a year-and-a-half lifeline to the Multnomah Arts Center (MAC).

Thanks to a more than a half million dollar infusion from the General Fund budget, the center will receive enough funding to stay open until the end of 2021. At that time the City Council will want to see a plan for MAC's financial independence.

The Mayor makes clear in his spending plan that MAC must figure out a way to increase revenue. His proposed budget says the general fund infusion is meant "to support revenue stabilization at the Multnomah Arts center while the (Parks and Recreation) bureau transitions the center to a sustainable business model."

Mark Ross with the Bureau says MAC will not run a deficit in the coming fiscal year, which begins on July 1.

This is what the Multnomah Arts Center loked like when it was still Multnomah School in the late 1970s."The Mayor's Budget,(approved by Council on May 23), proposes allocating one-time General Fund dollars to cover that $531,000 gap, which came to be because expenses are greatly outpacing revenue, per our business model," he wrote in an email.

Then, during the last six months of 2021, there will be another infusion from the general fund of $265,000.

"The funding for the first six months of Fiscal Year 2021 provides additional time to successfully transition MAC toward a new business model, of self-sufficiency," wrote Ross.

Asked if fees charged for classes, events and rental space at the center would have to be increased, he wrote, "While it is too soon to speculate on the funding details, we expect a likely combination of increased program revenue, increased rental revenue, costs reductions, and possibly other new forms of revenue that are yet to be determined."

PMG PHOTO: BILL GALLAGHER - This is what the Multnomah Arts Center looks like today.The Mayor's budget includes money to hire two people to figure out what that "new model of business self-sufficiency" will look like and then implement it.

"MAC has been given a year and half to develop a business model which does not rely on General Fund support. It's not necessarily the dollar amount of the deficit, the intent is to find a model that can provide service to the community without use of General Fund dollars," according to Ross.

Without replacement funding, the eventual loss of those dollars is certain to have an impact on fees charged and programs offered at MAC. Michael Walsh, the arts program supervisor at MAC was not available for comment.

Since 1982, MAC has been located in the building at 7688 S.W. Capitol Highway, which used to be Multnomah School. MAC offers education and participation in the performing and visual arts. It houses an art gallery and meeting rooms and hosts music and theatrical performances in an auditorium which is currently being upgraded to withstand earthquakes.

Horse-drawn wagons use Multnomah Arts Center as a way station on the night of the Christmas tree lighting in Multnomha Village.This is from the MAC website: "Annually, MAC serves more than 6,000 students of all ages and abilities by providing classes in a wide variety of visual, performing, and literary arts. Currently, the music department alone employs more than twenty-five teaching musicians and has approximately 275 students enrolled in private music instruction. Each year, there are more than 100 qualified teachers providing instruction in the arts to students at the center".

www.multnomahartscenter.org

Bill Gallagher

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