Budget cuts threaten annual Blaine Jazz Festival

Published on Wed, Dec 9, 2009 by Tara Nelson

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As the city moves closer to adopting its 2010 budget, Blaine City Council members are grappling with how to balance across the board cuts in funding.

Blaine’s annual jazz festival is one of a few programs that may not survive if they are not able to garner their regular contribution from the Blaine Tourism Advisory Committee (BTAC) in the amount of $30,000.

The program, organized by the Pacific Arts Association, has been funded for several years through BTAC funds and private donations from the Blaine community. Last year, for example, organizers raised more than $60,000 from private sources –  translating to about $2 for every dollar contributed by BTAC.

This year, BTAC members proposed giving PAA half that amount, or $15,000, and suggested the organization do more to get grant funding for the 2010 year.

Former city council member Bruce Wolf, in a budget session last month, told city council that, unlike other programs on BTAC’s list, the jazz festival may not continue without the full $30,000.

“It isn’t the kind of thing you can just cut the budget on, the level of expertise that it takes requires a certain amount of money,” he said during a council meeting on November 9.

Association director Larry Conrad agreed, adding that the PAA already applies for grant funding each year and in tough economic times, foundational support is more difficult to acquire.

“Their funding is down as well,” he said. “However, we will continue to do that as well as seek revenue from other sources such as from the sale of bricks on the downtown plazas.”

Wolf added that no other city-sponsored program has the kind of return on their investment as the jazz festival. Last year 96 students attended the camp, each paying $250, and that many of the students’ parents stayed overnight in Blaine and ate meals in local restaurants, he said.

“I can tell you that nowhere in the BTAC funding does any organization have that kind of result on the dollar," he said. "That’s the commitment of this community to this jazz festival.”

Councilmember Harry Robinson suggested granting PAA the full funding with the understanding of bigger cuts the following year.

“If we buy these people some time, there may be other programs that drop off the list,” he said. “If they can’t provide some funding, they’re going to go off the list. But I would say let's have some ground rules so people have a year to make that adjustment.”

The council is scheduled to approve the final budget December 14.