DIA Millage: Art is for everyone - Fox 2 News Headlines

DIA Millage: Art is for everyone

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The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) is seeking a millage in Macomb, Wayne and Oakland counties.
The proposed millage rate is 0.2 mils.  It would cost homeowners approximately $15 per year for every $150,000 of a home's fair market value
The DIA will provide free general admission any time for all residents of approving counties – a value well in excess of the small amount paid per household. It currently costs a household with two adults and two children $24 for general admission.
The millage vote would take place on August 7, 2012.
The DIA is asking for a millage for 10 years.
The millage would provide $23 million per year: $10 million in Oakland, $8 million in Wayne, and $5 million in Macomb.

The following information is provided by the Detroit Institute of Arts:

1.      Why does the DIA need a millage?

The Detroit Institute of Arts (DIA) had been supported by public funds from 1893 to the early 1990s. For nearly 100 years the City General Fund and private philanthropy provided sole support for the museum as it grew to be one of the world's major art museums. An appropriately sized operating endowment—an important component of the business model for most large cultural organizations—was never established.

In the 1970s, the State of Michigan recognized the museum's unique contribution to the entire state and incorporated financial support for the museum into the state budget. Beginning in the early 1990s state support for the museum was slowly but steadily reduced, a situation that was accelerated as a series of economic downturns hit the state. At the same time the city's ability to support the museum was sharply reduced until all city funding was eliminated.

Today the DIA does not receive any funds from the state, city or county. The elimination of all public funding for operations has required the museum to turn almost entirely to the private sector, an operating model that is not sustainable, particularly in the current economy.

The museum's ultimate goal is to become financially self-sustaining. After considerable research and evaluation, a dedicated millage to temporarily restore public funding for the DIA, which would allow fundraising to focus on building an operating endowment, was identified as the most viable option to guarantee the DIA's continuing viability and eventual non-reliance on public funding.

2.      How large of a millage will the DIA need, and for how long?

 The DIA is asking for 0.2 mil for 10 to 15 years.

3.      When would the millage proposal appear on the ballot?

 In the August 2012 primary election

4.      What counties would be included in the proposed millage?

 Wayne, Oakland and Macomb

5.      How much would 0.2 mil cost each homeowner?

 It would cost approximately $10 per year for every $100,000 of a home's fair market value

6.      If a 0.2 mil levy is successful in all three counties, how much revenue would be generated by each county?

0.2 mil would raise approximately $23 million: $10 million in Oakland County, $8 million in Wayne County, and $5 million in Macomb County.

7.      Will these funds go into your endowment?

 No. Public funds will only be used to cover operating expenses and will not be used to increase the museum's endowment. The public funds will enable the DIA to devote its fund raising activities in the private sector to build our endowment to achieve a long-term goal of no longer requiring public funds to sustain operations.

8.      If the millage is successful in all 3 counties, how will the tax revenue be used?

  • It will cover the shortfall that resulted from the loss of public funding from the State of Michigan and the City of Detroit.
  • It will provide funding for free general admission for residents of the counties that approve it, removing financial barriers to enjoying the museum.
  • It will allow an expansion of operating days and hours to better accommodate public and school groups.
  • It will fund education and public programs and provide support for exhibitions.

9.      Will there be oversight of how the tax money is spent? What is the mechanism? Will annual reporting be required?

Yes. The arts authorities in each county, whose members are appointed by the commissioners and city executives, will ensure DIA compliance and an annual audit will be required.

10.  Has the DIA been fiscally responsible?

 The DIA has always been and continues to be fiscally responsible, balancing the budget every year.  The DIA's financials are subjected to annual outside audits and consistently receive the highest rating

In early 2009, the DIA:

  • Reduced its workforce by nearly 20% (more than 60 full- and part-time positions)
  • Reduced operating expenses to bring its total operating budget from $32 million to $25.4 million

11.  Why not cut the budget further?

Because of the high fixed costs required to maintain the facility and protect the art collection, significant cuts beyond the 2009 reductions would severely impair the museum's ability to operate.

12.  What is the process for seeking a millage?

In December, 2010 the Michigan Senate and House approved legislation to provide for the establishment of art institute authorities that would allow voters in counties to decide whether to establish a new millage to support the DIA. Each county must now determine whether to put it on the ballot for the voters to decide.

13.  What will happen if the DIA is not successful in its millage campaign?

There would be a severe reduction of museum services and programs. Museum leadership has outlined different scenarios that include opening selected galleries only on weekends, elimination of school tours, public programs and community outreach. A DIA without millage support will not be the DIA we know today.

14.  What will happen if it is only partially successful – i.e., it does not pass in all three counties?

The DIA will have to evaluate that based on the amount of revenue available. The

urgency of the situation requires success in all three counties for operational stability.

15.  Is it practical for the DIA to think of a public millage with Michigan in such a weak economic state?

While the DIA is very sensitive to Michigan's economic difficulties, we also recognize our obligation to preserve and protect this very important institution for future generations. Public funding is the only available option that would not seriously jeopardize the museum's ability to serve our community with continued quality.

16.  Will passage of the millage affect the governance of the museum?

No. The DIA is governed by its board of directors representing the tri-county area under an operating agreement with the City of Detroit by The Detroit Institute of Arts, Inc., a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization. That will not change.

17.  What assurance do counties have that the millage money will be spent according to how the DIA says it will be spent?

The DIA will enter into a contractual agreement with the authorities established by each county. If the authorities determine that the DIA has breached the contract, the DIA would no longer receive funding.

18.  How many of the DIA visitors come from each of the three counties targeted for the millage?

Of the average annual attendance of 400,000 visitors, 32% come from Wayne County, 19% from Oakland County, and 10% from Macomb County.

19.  What benefits will the voters receive in return for their financial support for the museum?

Counties that approve the millage will receive free admission for residents of counties approving the millage.

20.  Why not just sell some art?

The DIA's art collection is held in trust for the benefit of the public and works of art may not be sold except to purchase other art to be added to the DIA's collection. Such a sale would violate the intentions of donors, donor confidence would be shaken – resulting in fewer gifts of art, and public outcry would be tremendous.

Selling art to fund operations would violate universally accepted museum practices and put us in violation of the DIA's operating agreement with the City of Detroit, which specifies that the museum must be operated according to accepted practice.

Selling art also would isolate the DIA from the national and international museum community. Other institutions that have considered selling art have seen public demonstrations and a withdrawal of financial support. The DIA would not be able to organize exhibitions such as the recent, highly successful Rembrandt and the Face of Jesus and art loan requests would be refused, eliminating our ability to display exceptional art from renowned museums around the world to our visitors.

21.  What if an Emergency Financial Manager was appointed for the City of Detroit, or if the City were to go bankrupt?

Under the current operating agreement, if the City tried to sell art from the collection, the DIA would block the attempted sale through legal action. If the City goes bankrupt, they cannot sell assets with a value greater than $50,000 without approval from the State treasurer. This would include all the DIA's major works of art.

22.  Why not just raise admission prices?

Admissions count for only 3% of the DIA's revenue. To take in enough revenue from admissions to close the annual operating gap would make the cost to visit the museum prohibitive.

23.  Why not have just the people who use the museum pay for it? Why should I pay for something I don't use?

The existence of the DIA benefits every resident in Michigan, and especially those in the tri-county area. A cultural resource like the DIA is one element among many necessary for a healthy, vibrant society. It also has a strong economic benefit. As reported by Crain's Detroit Business, ArtServe confirms that for every $1 invested in nonprofit arts and cultural groups in 2009, those organizations pumped $51 back into Michigan's economy through spending on rent, programs, travel and salaries.

24.  What guarantee do we have that the City of Detroit will not access the funds raised by the county millages?

The funds will flow directly from each county authority to the DIA – not to the City of Detroit. Each county authority has the authority to halt payments if the funds are used for anything other than DIA operations.

25.  What is the maximum amount an individual can contribute to this millage campaign?

Millage committees can receive unlimited contributions from individuals.

26.  Who owns the art?

Under the current operating agreement, the collection is owned by the City of Detroit.

27.  How will the State of Michigan's consent agreement with the City of Detroit affect the DIA?

It does not affect the DIA.

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