Small- And Mid-Sized Denver Arts Orgs Could See More Public Funding

Photo: SCFD Task Force Chair Jim Harrington
SCFD Reauthorization Task Force Chair Jim Harrington presents recommendations on Thursday, April 23, 2015.

Smaller and mid-sized arts organizations will receive a bigger share of the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD) public fund if voters approve an extension of the metro Denver sales tax in 2016.

The SCFD gave more than $50 million to around 280 organizations -- ranging from the Denver Zoo to the Evergreen Chorale -- in 2014. That revenue comes from a 0.1 percent of sales and use tax that dates back to 1989.

But officials plan to change how that money gets distributed if voters across seven counties reauthorize the tax again next year. Voters have approved to extend the SCFD tax twice before: in 1994 and in 2004.

Last week, the SCFD board of directors addressed 12 recommendations made by a task force in April. The board adopted 11 changes, including a new formula for distribution among the three tiers of SCFD.

Five large groups in Tier 1 currently share 65.5 percent of the funds, while 27 regional organizations in Tier 2 share 21 percent, and more than 200 smaller organizations in Tier 3 share 13.5 percent.

The tax levy change allocates higher percentages to the second and third tiers:

  • If funds exceed $38 million: Tier 1: 57 percent; Tier 2: 26 percent; Tier 3: 17 percent
  • If funds fall below $38 million: Tier 1: 64 percent; Tier 2: 22 percent; Tier 3: 14 percent

That share is still not enough, maintains Jane Potts of CAST 3, an advocacy group for Tier 3 organizations.

“The [Tier 3 organizations] were majorly disappointed by the decisions of the SCFD board and what they want to put forward to the Colorado Legislature,” she told CPR News via email. “Although several [Tier 3 organizations] spoke, it did not feel that our voices were important.”

Potts says the smaller organizations deserve more than a “slight” increase because they draw a third of the audiences, focus more on diversity, and provide easier access thanks to factors like location and lower admission prices.

In a unanimous vote, officials also agreed to double the amount dedicated to the administrative budget to 1.5 percent of the total revenue.

The SCFD board will conclude deliberations during its next public meeting at noon on June 25 at the Ken Caryl Ranch Metropolitan District in Littleton.

SCFD Executive Director Peg Long says SCFD will begin drafting legislation with the statutory changes by August with plans to finalize the bill in December. Changes will take effect in 2018 if voters reauthorize the tax district next year.