Worry over arts funds

CONCERN: Local arts and culture groups have been worried about arts funding in the Mount Alexander Shire Council's proposed budget.
CONCERN: Local arts and culture groups have been worried about arts funding in the Mount Alexander Shire Council's proposed budget.

The Mount Alexander Shire Council and members of Castlemaine’s arts community are urging residents to have their say on the council’s proposed plan and budget. 

There has been concern among the arts community that funding has been reduced.

The 2016/17 budget allocated $420,000 to cultural development but this year's proposed budget sets aside $220,000. 

A re-structure of the Mount Alexander Shire Council means the funds remain the same but fall under various departments.

“The perceived reduction in funding allocated to cultural development in the proposed budget is due to a change in how and where we report on management and administrative resources in our new organisational structure,” Mount Alexander Shire Council corporate and community services director Lisa Knight said.

“Dedicated funding specific to the arts has increased by about $5000 in the 2017/2018 Proposed Budget, compared to the previous financial year.”

Ms Knight said a dedicated arts officer had been retained by the council to facilitate programs to increase community engagement and participation in cultural activities, and assist artistic development in the shire.

“We have worked hard to minimise the impact of rate capping on day-to-day services and minimise the changes to fees and charges under the two percent rate cap. This is an ongoing challenge for council and we will continue to identify sustainable cost savings and increase our advocacy efforts to secure additional funding for special projects.” she said.

Mount Alexander Shire will also be involved the state government’s Regional Centre for Culture project.

The $3.93 million project will support a year-long program of arts and community activities in the Greater Bendigo, Mount Alexander, Central Goldfields and Hepburn regions.

“Council will also be involved in supporting and coordinating local participation in the Regional Centre for Culture project, which is not factored into our operational budget,” Ms Knight said.

Castlemaine Theatre Company president Kate Stones urged people concerned about the future of the arts in the region to make submissions about the draft plan and proposed budget.

“We’re not taking an antagonistic position, we know it is a draft plan but we want to make it clear that arts is not negotiable in Castlemaine,” she said.

“Arts, like sport, brings people together, is helpful, fun and gives people a connection to community.”