A substantial increase in funding for the Southeast Arkansas Arts and Science Center was presented to the entire Pine Bluff City Council for consideration during the fourth day of the city’s budget meetings on Friday.
Rachel Miller, director of the Arts & Science Center for Southeast Arkansas, requested $ 55,000 for The ARTSpace on Main and $ 25,863 for ART WORKS on Main, in addition to $ 69,000 for the museum in the center. . The center only received funding for the museum in the 2021 budget.
ARTSpace and ART WORKS were renovated thanks to an infrastructure investment grant from the Wind-gate Foundation.
“What the Arts & Science Center has done with this outward investment grant is that we’ve brought a lot of attention to the town of Pine Bluff,” Miller said, citing an award the center received. from the American Institute of Architects.
“Covid was difficult for everyone and especially for museums and cultural organizations,” Miller said. “The Arts and Science Center has not only been able to overcome covid, but to cross it. And one of the main reasons we’ve been able to do that is because we’ve been very frugal stewards of our resources. One of those resources is the funding we receive from the Town of Pine Bluff.
Mayor Shirley Washington warned Miller his request was more than double what was budgeted for in 2021, to which Miller replied, “I get it.” Washington continued, “The committee has the right to move forward, but I cannot see us committing to that level of increase at this time. We could consider some of that. Miller assured Washington that center staff would appreciate any additional funding.
Lloyd Holcomb Jr., chairman of the Pine Bluff board of directors, supported the request and ultimately moved the proposal to pass it on to the full board.
“I think we need to look at the full range of benefits that the Arts and Science Center brings to this whole region and what will come from it,” Holcomb said.
The centre’s presentation marked the start of the fourth day of hearings on the city’s budget, which are tentatively scheduled to run until next Friday. Nine of the 11 departments were heard in less than two hours before committee members took lunch.
During the executive department hearing, Washington said the city was looking to add a supply post that would operate out of the finance department.
“We have so many new department heads, some of them don’t know the procedures and we have to struggle to work with them, so we see a need for that person at this point,” Washington said. City officials say a similar post was last budgeted for about four years ago.
Holcomb suggested, however, prioritizing increases for all city employees if positions need to be added.
“What we were doing was going over the operating expenses, and after that we had a conversation with our advisers here who would look at where we are at, and we would apply any increases that we can,” Washington said. “The increases will be taken into account for everyone at all levels when this consideration is made.” Holcomb said, “I don’t want to add positions, which is more money added to our budget, but not give our employees an increase. If we don’t have the money to give our employees a raise, how can we have the money to add more money to our core fund?
“If these positions are needed, I will support them, but I will fight tooth and nail to get a raise in our employees. The administration committee also moved the request of the IT department to reduce the salary of the director of information technology from $ 55,000 to $ 54,000, to change the position from network technician to network technician. / PC and increase this salary from $ 48,736 to $ 51,736; and decrease the salary of the PC technician from $ 35,208 to $ 32,000.
Pine Bluff / Jefferson County Historical Museum director Elizabeth Gaines asked for $ 12,000, but Holcomb changed her motion to $ 13,500, given the amount budgeted for 2021.
The administration committee also heard from building maintenance, human resources and finance, as well as City Collector Sharon Johnson and City Treasurer Greg Gustek. All budget requests from these offices have been approved.