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Local Taxes and Who Gets What

11.15.17 11:39 AM – Andy McDonald
Did you know your tax money goes to fund Parks and Recreation programs for special needs kids? My kids don’t use them, and the City of Berea surely doesn’t make any money putting them on. So why should all taxpayers fund them?

The City of Berea also has an impressive network of athletic fields and shared use paths throughout the city. Many people don’t use them, and the city does not recoup the money it takes to maintain them. So why should all Berea tax payers have to foot the bill?

Moreover, I don’t have children in Madison County schools, and let’s face it, schools are big money losers. Why support them with my tax dollars?

Precisely that kind of sentiment has been kicked around lately with regard to Berea Tourism’s Art Accelerator and Gallery123. Critics argue the city does not recoup its investment by virtue of art sales at the gallery, so why keep funding it?

What is sometimes misunderstood is that Gallery123 is not like a Circle K store. The city doesn’t recoup its entire investment in art sales because the Art Accelerator training program is not designed to work that way. The city does, however, invest in business training and workspace for five new artists in a given year so those artists can later launch viable businesses in Berea. The city’s return on that investment comes when said artisans set up shop and draw tourism dollars to our city.

So far, the city is realizing economic benefits of the program as two new storefronts have opened in Old Town, both run by Art Accelerator graduates. And as arts workshops continue (Make It, Take It, Give It and Festival of Learnshops), some of which have been taught by Art Accelerator fellows, workshop participants report they are spending increasing amounts of their money in Berea restaurants, hotels and local shops. Craftspeople who teach those courses, meanwhile, are also making money by teaching their trade. As more businesses and artisans make money, the more resources the city derives to help maintain and grow a livable community – one that outsiders seem to fall in love with and want to visit again.

So just because a program may not appear to benefit all at first glance doesn’t mean it isn’t of value to the entire community. Athletic fields and shared use paths certainly don’t recoup the money they take to maintain, but they do enhance our citizens’ health, quality of life and they appeal to tourists. Not everyone directly benefits from Madison County schools, but cultivating well-educated citizens who can seize economic opportunities and help our entire community prosper is critical to the city’s future. Parks and Rec programs for special needs kids are a benefit because, among other things, they reinforce the message that Berea can and should be an inclusive community that strives to take care of all its residents.

All of these are investments in the city’s future that bear positive economic consequences. In the same way, supporting the Art Accelerator and Gallery123 is intended to be a valuable investment in the city's economy.

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