Scottsdale City Council OKs $550K increase to Cultural Council funding

The Scottsdale Cultural Council, 7380 E 2nd St., is receiving an additional $450,000 in funding this fiscal year from the city of Scottsdale. (Independent Newsmedia/Terrance Thornton)

The Scottsdale Cultural Council, 7380 E 2nd St., is receiving an additional $450,000 in funding this fiscal year from the city of Scottsdale. (Independent Newsmedia/Terrance Thornton)

Scottsdale City Council is giving the Scottsdale Cultural Council an additional $450,000 this fiscal year for facility upgrades and up to $100,000 in matching funds for the group to host an annual art event in downtown Scottsdale coined “Canal Convergence.”

The Cultural Council was initially seeking an additional $1.6 million from the local governing board, but by a vote of 4 to 3 the arts entity was provided about 40 percent of its initial request. Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane and members Suzanne Klapp and Kathy Littlefield were dissenting votes Tuesday, Nov. 10.

Scottsdale City Council this fiscal year provided $4.3 million to the Cultural Council through a “financial participation agreement to be allocated for activities consistent with the agreement,” a city staff report states. Scottsdale City Council adopted a General Fund budget of about $250 million for this fiscal year.

The Scottsdale Cultural Council was established in 1987 as a 501(c)3 nonprofit management company that has now evolved into a “unique umbrella organization with three dynamic operating divisions” charged with promoting and cultivating local visual and performing arts, officials say.

City staff recommended city council approve the Cultural Council’s full request with funds coming from the city’s unreserved fund balance, which stands at nearly $24 million.

Guy Phillips

Guy Phillips

Scottsdale Councilman Guy Phillips, who has spoken out against taxpayer dollars subsidizing private operations, voted for the funding increase.

“While I am against giving the Cultural Council or any other business entity contracted with Scottsdale more money from our General Fund, especially after the voters turned down 60 percent of the bonds, the amount I agreed to give them was a contractual obligation that the city would be liable for should an incident occur because of our failure to keep certain areas of the performing arts in working condition,” he said in a Nov. 17 written response to e-mailed questions.

“Legally they could have sued us to finish or replace these items.”

Councilman Phillips says the Cultural Council funding requests need some kind of additional oversight.

“I feel there is no oversight with this contract,” he said. “I would like to see a commission set up to oversee public art and expenditures outside the realm of normal operations. Basically we hand them $4.3 million each year and say here ya go! Have fun!”

However, Scottsdale Vice Mayor David Smith contends Councilman Phillips is not accurately representing the relationship between city council and the Cultural Council.

David Smith

David Smith

“The city council does not ‘give’ the Cultural Council $4.3 million of your tax dollars. The money paid by the city is according to a written, legal contract covering the management and administration of the city’s performing arts facilities, contemporary arts museum and public art programs,” he said in a Nov. 6 statement sent to the Scottsdale Independent.

“Previous discussions have made clear that if these management services are not performed by the Cultural Council, they will have to be performed by another vendor or by the city itself. In either alternative, several million dollars of supportive private donations would likely evaporate.”

Vice Mayor Smith says facts are facts and should be treated as such.

“The Cultural Council does not operate at a loss. It is a nonprofit corporation whose books are audited each year by an independent public accounting firm,” he explained of established financial oversight.

“These independently prepared financial reports are routinely made available to the City Council every year. Furthermore, the Scottsdale Cultural Council is periodically audited by the city’s own internal audit group whose reports are public records.”

Independent Newsmedia Arizona Managing Editor Terrance Thornton can be contacted at

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