OGDEN — Ogden City is looking to overhaul the way it funds the arts.
The Ogden City Council is considering a proposal from the city administration that would make several changes to existing arts ordinances. The suggested adjustments would, among other things, fund art exclusively through lease revenue the city accrues from the Business Depot Ogden business park.
Until 2016, city-funded art was paid for from a pooled “Percent for Art” fund. Ogden was the first Utah city to begin such program when it was adopted in 1997. The program called for 1% of eligible city capital improvement project funds to be set aside for the commission, purchase and installation of art — a strategy aimed at building a large, public collection.
The city changed the model in 2016, moving to collect art money from its water, sanitary sewer and storm sewer utility funds. The money collected under the current model is equivalent to the average yearly amount spent under the old Percent for Art funding method. During the city’s 2018 budgeting process, several residents expressed concerns about using utility funds to pay for art projects, saying that money should be locked into the operation and maintenance of utility infrastructure.
Much of the public outcry came from Ogden Canyon residents, which are technically residents of unincorporated Weber County.
Moving to BDO lease funds would allow the city to tap lease revenues from the biggest business park in Ogden. Under an public-private partnership, Ogden City splits all lease revenues from the BDO 50-50 with Salt Lake City-based Boyer Company. The 1,118-acre BDO currently has more than 125 businesses operating inside of it.
While moving to BDO lease monies would mark a big shift for arts funding, a Tuesday council work session featured much conversation about a measure in the proposed ordinance that would allow the mayor to approve up to $30,000 toward “minor art” projects, without first getting council approval. Under this scenario, projects could not exceed the $30,000 threshold, would have to be consistent with the city’s Arts Master Plan and recommended by the Arts Advisory Committee.
Ogden Arts Coordinator Lorie Buckley said the money is not an addition to the arts department’s budget and would come from their annual pot of money, which under the new funding mechanism would allow for an annual contribution of up to $200,000, while maintaining a maximum account balance of $500,000. The council would be briefed on projects finished under this stipulation during the arts department’s annual report.
“It would be kind of a catch all emergency (measure),” Buckley said. “When we were prepping for Spike 150, we needed to wrap utility boxes in the downtown area ... but there wasn’t enough time to go through the procedure of getting approval from (the council) ... This would catch something like that. It isn’t something we’d be doing very regularly.”
While reiterating their appreciation for the arts department and Ogden’s arts community in general, several council members voiced concerns about the ordinance including an option to bypass them for arts funding.
“We want to make sure that there isn’t a perception that someone is trying to circumvent the process that’s in place,” said council member Luis Lopez. “And because we want to make sure that it’s equitable.”
Council member Marcia White took a different approach, saying she didn’t understand how the stipulation differed from other sectors of the city, where department directors are able to use emergency funds in similar amounts.
“I don’t see it any different than there’s $30,000 in the fire (department’s) budget and they need a tool and they are able to go get that tool,” White said.
The council will continue discussions on the proposed ordinance in coming weeks. The measure will be voted on during the city’s Fiscal Year 2019-2020 budget process.