"The Official Portrait of Miss InDiana"

"The Official Portrait of Miss InDiana"
aka "Miss Victory"

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

OMG!!! Arts Council administrator makes more than the Mayor!

We're just starting to dig into how our money is used within the Indianapolis Arts Council. But here is a highlight from 2006.

From Arts Council of Indianapolis 2006 annual report and tax return.

PRESIDENT: Greg Charleston's Salary $143,096 plus $13,925 in benefits

VICE PRESIDENT: David Lawrence's Salary $98,777 plus $9,991 in benefits

These two arts administrators are getting a big payout at taxpayer expense. The governor and mayor make less than $100,000.

How is it that they deserve our money to be the decider of which artists get our money which they want to take from us against our will?
Would it not make more sense to bypass the administrators and give the money DIRECTLY to the starving artists in Indianapolis if you are going to steal from taxpayers to give to artists? Something tells me a lot of talented artists in Indianapolis would like to see that kind of money in a year.
We're not supporting the arts with our money, we're supporting ADMINISTRATIVE costs!
Hopefully, you will start to see the real cause behind the whining and crying. You can bet that HFFT is digging into expenses next and the arts council I.R.S. returns will be scrutinized and made available on this blog.


Anonymous said...

This is what happens when the people don't watch their money closely. There is always someone who has their hand in your pocket. They even have the nerve to try to justify the theft.


Do you agree with Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard's plan to cut funding for the parks and the arts while boosting the budget for public safety?

Yes 388 69%
No 171 31%

Anonymous said...

The Arts Council favors many organizations dominated by out-of-towners and provides minority support to Indianapolis native artists. Follow the money.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget that Peterson borrowed from the bond bank for day-to-day operating expenses.

Concerned Taxpayer said...

Gee...color me NOT surprised!

Sean Shepard said...

Okay. So do I understand this correctly that out of the $1.5 million (or so) budget, 18% of it was just for salaries and perks for the top two people?

Essentially six-figure compensation for both? Where are all of the Democrats that should be howling at people making unreasonable profit at government (taxpayer) expense?

Can you imagine if the CEO of some company [read with all intended sarcasm: big, evil, corrupt corporation run only for benefit of really, really rich people] was the beneficiary what the response would likely be?


Sean, We believe their salaries are actually paid by the CIB and not the city budget. They made a big point of stating that they are not paid by the city on one of the blogs.

But were curiously quiet when we asked if they were paid by taxpayer owned funds distributed by the CIB.

blackrock said...

Ok, so your detective work showed that the Arts Council ED and his 2nd in command make a good salary, but you fail to provide the whole picture of what the AC does. My brief view of their 2006 Form 990 (I assume you are looking at the same thing) shows revenues of $6.1MM and expenses of $5.7MM. Huh. How do they get $6.1MM when the max they get from the city is $2.5MM? That's really weird. Do you think that maybe they do more that just provide administration for the city funds? Kinda looks like it, but I'm not an expert on the AC. Guess you'll need to dig deeper before jumping to conclusions.

I think a bigger question is does the AC provide good value overall? Everything costs money, but what is the return on investment? Focusing solely on costs misses the point.

While debating the merits of arts funding (and the compensation of those administering that funding) is a important civic exercise, this debate is ultimately a case of not being able to see the forest through the trees. The proposed city-county budget is $1.1 billion. The $2.5MM proposed spending on arts is one-quarter of 1% of the budget. It is only 10% of the $26MM shortfall. A balanced budget is important, thus we need to be hunting for elephants, not mice.


We need to hunt for elephants AND mice because both contribute to the deficit.

I recently cancelled my monthly bottled water delivery because to find extra money to pay my new property tax bill.

Bottled water was only $26 a month and small compared to the overall household budget. In addtion to
bottled water, I also cut several other small luxuries like Starbucks iced coffees and restaurant dining.

I suppose the city can live without small mice-like luxuries such as arts admin people if I can live without bottled water and starbucks in order to find funds to pay my massively increased property tax bill.

blackrock said...

Cancelled your bottled water and Starbucks?...you sound like many folks in U.S. who constantly live up to and beyond their means. You should seek out a good financial planner.

As for the arts, did it ever occur to you that the $2.5MM token of support helps to add to the attractiveness of our city? Conventioneers, tourists, sports fans, etc. come to our town, spend their money in our businesses, and help contribute to the economic and cultural vitality of the city. Arts and economic development are intertwined, not exclusive of each other.

Think about it - why are our neighbors in Hamilton county buiding a very pricey Arts Center ($80MM+ as I recall)? They understand that to attract and retain businesses and their employees, there needs to be a strong arts culture. In fact, if more companies would decide to locate here, maybe you could get a better job so you could restart your water delivery and Starbucks runs.

melyssa said...

Here's some background on Melyssa. I do without dinners out, Starbucks, and bottled water these days because I am a victim of huge tax increases.

My home maintenance fund of $300 a month now goes to pay my increased property tax bill. In 2003 my property tax doubled. In 2007, it TRIPLED overnight!

The only choice I have to control these tax increases is to protest. Which I did. See tax protests last summer. I led a lot of them including the tea parties.

I live in Meridian Kessler. I saved 5 years for a downpayment and bought it in 1998. I did not buy beyond my means. I put money in my house as I could afford to approve it over the past decade.

Now I am taxed out.

My credit cards are paid off. I own my Mercedes free and clear.
I work for one of the top places to work according to the Indiana Chamber. In fact, they let me install a mini art gallery in part of the building I'm in at work.

I shouldn't have my income sucked from me by parasites who live off the government tit! I deserve to keep my money without it being extorted by so called arts elites who think they know more about how to invest my money in the arts than I do!

I have so much art I have to keep some of it up in the attic. In fact, it would not surprise me one bit if I spend more money directly with the arts than do the arts admins who are sucking like parasites at the government trough.

the griffins said...

Hamilton county will pay the property tax piper soon. Homeowners are in the the clear in the short term because they have Mayor Brainerd annexed new land.

We were annexed and had staggering property tax increases compared to 20 years ago.

Hamilton County homeowners will pay for Brainerd's spending. It just has not come home to rest yet and will not until he brings as many new homes as he can into the tax base.

Anonymous said...

Melyssa is not alone. The whole state is in trouble. Look at this from the IBJ:

Indiana could land $100M to jumpstart housing
Mon. August 11 - 2008

Norm Heikens - nheikens@ibj.com
IBJ staff
Indiana might be in line for a lot more than the $20 million minimum each state will be allocated as part of the housing stimulus initiative signed by President Bush on July 31, according to a new IUPUI study.

The Center for Urban Policy and the Environment estimates Indiana could receive $80 million to $100 million in federal funding because foreclosures and mortgage delinquencies have hit Indiana harder than other states.

Congress asked the Department of Housing and Urban Development to write guidelines for how the $4 billion will be allocated, so predicting just how much Indiana will receive is difficult, Senior Policy Analyst Seth Payton wrote.

However, Payton said, “Indiana could get a fairly large sum of money because we’ve had this problem for such a long time,” Payton said.

Even $100 million isn’t much for a state like Indiana with more than 6 million people.

But if cities and other beneficiaries use the money wisely, it could have a fairly big impact, Payton said.

Most of Indiana’s mortgage problems are in the Indianapolis area, Gary, South Bend and Fort Wayne.

Payton is reluctant to pinpoint the hardest-hit areas for fear of the negative publicity driving real estate prices even lower. But he said the northeastern tip of Morgan County and parts of Plainfield have experienced severe problems. Areas of Marion County also have been hit hard. Even areas of affluent Carmel have been clobbered, he said.

Foreclosures carry a punch. In 2004 in Marion County, each foreclosure within a one-mile radius cut the sale price of the average house by 3 to 4 percent — or $3,200 — the center estimates.

Cities could use the new money selectively to demolish or redevelop abandoned properties and counsel homeowners to prevent problems from worsening, Payton noted.

Anonymous said...

The same arguments these arts hypocrites use to justify their theft from Indy homeowners, is the same rhetoric we heard from the Colts.

blackrock said...


You seem to be stuck in weeds. I think that attributing your property tax increase to arts spending is a bit of hyperbole, don't ya think? Even if arts funding is completely eliminated, it will have almost no effect on your personal property taxes since the amount, $2.5MM, is very small relative to the entire city-county budget. In fact, elimination of funding could have a negative effect on your ppty taxes as money flowing into city coffers could be decreased due to reduced economic activity, thus creating a need to increase ppty taxes to cover the shortfall.

I do feel your pain - my ppty taxes tripled from 2006 to 2007. However, I'm not blaming the arts spending for this unfortunate problem.

Maybe you could sell some of the art in your attic to help pay your ppty taxes.

Melyssa said...

Why should I have to sell off my art possessions to pay tax so that our government can keep on borrowing money from the bond bank to fund a pack of people to decide how I should support the arts?

Do you see how ludicrous that is?

Sean Shepard said...

the griffins are exactly right about Carmel. My wife and I had talked about moving there some time ago but fear the coming debt/tax payments might make it a poor long-term choice.

I also agree very much with whoever said that we get the same rhetoric from the arts folks as we get from the sports teams when they want to gorge themselves at the government trough.

As a society we (people and businesses) need to quit trying to use the force of government in an attempt to live at the expense of everyone else.

blackrock said...

melyssa... how about a little levity? My suggestion to sell your art was in jest.

I'm not sure if you really hate arts and culture or if you have simply found an easy scapegoat to direct your anger over your ppty tax bill. Even if arts funding goes to zero, it will not make a material difference in the money coming out of your pocket. So in a way you are wasting your time and voice. I suggest you go to indygov.org, get the proposed budget, and really dig into the revenues and expenses associated with running this city. I think you will find that there are much larger fish to fry.

Sean Shepard said...

Yes Melyssa! Buy art to support local artists so you can sell it off at garage sale prices to pay the taxes, some of which may be supporting ... well, typically I would guess, NON LOCAL artists.

Ultimately, we have to remember it's not $1.5 million. It is an INFINITE amount of money because the debt that is incurred is NEVER paid off and accrues interest until default (since it is unlikely the debt is ever reduced - see U.S. National Debt for best example)

Annie said...

I appreciate your comments Blackrock and I agree that clearly there is more going on at the Arts Council than simply the administering of city funds to other arts organizations. If you look at the city funding, you can easily see that it is spent on the arts organizations, not on salaries for the Arts Council executives. Further, I understand Melyssa's point that property taxes have sky rocketed. However, if she had done her homework she would know that the funding of the arts is NOT the cause of these increases. Arts funding has remained level over the past few years, but not before it had DECREASED! How could arts funding have decreased and your property taxes have tripled as a result of the arts funding? Think about it. How does that make any sense?

I'm not sure how it came to pass that the arts should be blamed for all of the city's budget problems, but I think that we need to look at this situation logically and keep the emotions in check. I have many other comments that I would like to address, however I'm not sure that I can put my thoughts into such eloquent phrases as 'parasites who live off the government tit.' Classy.


Annie, I've never blamed the arts for all the tax problems. Far from it. I've stated the arts are a small part of the problem of the habit Peterson got us in of borrowing money we don't have.

Question: If your credit cards are completely maxed out and you can barely afford the minimum payments, do you go out and buy a pair of earrings just because they are on sale and they make you look good?

Or are you DISCIPLINED enought to stop spend money you don't have?

And Annie...please tell us your last name so the taxpayers can know more about you. Your opinion will carry weight if you yourself are not living off the taxpayer TIT!

And yes, I know you don't think I am "classy"...and neither is lot of art or artists for that matter. Sometimes it is necessary to be crass for emphasis. Particularly when advantage is being taken of one by another.

I hear a lot of taxpayers don't think the walking girl by Julian Opie is "classy" and are angry they are stuck paying for it.

Personally, I happen to think the Julian Opie installation is super cool! I also think it should be purchased with private money and given as a GIFT by private donors to the city instead.

Now THAT would be "classy".

blackrock said...

Correction on the Opie funding:

Half was paid by the Indianapolis Cultural Trail (which is 100% private funding) and half by the Indianapolis Cultural Development Commission (I'm not sure of ICDC funding sources, so it's possible they could get public money).

Regardless, the Opie piece adds to Mass Avenue's appeal (for most folks anyway) which, in turn, ecourages economic activity in the area. People spend their money at restaurants, bars, shops, etc. Some like it so much that they choose to live downtown. The more people that live here, the more the ppty taxes can be spread out, which benefits us all. Starting to see how this can work?

For support about Opie:

Anonymous said...

The organization that pays the arts administrator salaries is about as private as the Sports Corporation which recently bilked the taxpayers out of $3.8 million on the Pan Am Plaza sale to Kite (another Bart Peterson political friend).

These "corporations" were set up by lawyers and designed to pay big dividends to insider cronyism. When you trace the money, it all comes back to the taxpayer.

It's CIB money and the CIB gets its money down the line from the taxpayer.

They aren't fooling anyone.

Melyssa said...

I lived on Mass Avenue and supported the arts on Mass Avenue LONG LONG LONG before Julian Opie and public funding...back when there was parallel parking.

David Andrichik worked hard to get the curbs and parking redone and planters along the curbs. That's good use of public money. Andrichik is a great example of a public servant. He pitched in and worked hard to help make the Mass Ave scene and as I recall, didn't really get paid for doing it.

Again, best to fund the art projects PRIVATELY and give them as gifts to the city. That way no one is offended they were FORCED TO PAY for art they hate and are forced to look at everyday. We wouldn't want to offend anyone would we?

Anonymous said...

How much of mass ave is a tif zone? Anyone know off hand?

blackrock said...

Another correction:

While I know you've got a personal beef with Mayor Bart, the city was borrowing money long before he became mayor and the city will likely still be borrowing money long after you and I are dead and gone.

Go to the following link for a good snapshot of the city budget over the past 8 years.


From this link you can see that the city's debt payments have certainly gone up in 8 years. The annual debt service amount has increased from about $42MM to $62MM, definitely not peanuts.

What is much more interesting is the last graph in the link which shows that Public Safety & Criminal Justice costs have increase 80% in 8 years. In 2000, we spent $309MM and by 2008 that number was $559MM, an increase of $250MM! Wow! This is the "elephant" I am talking about. Public safety spending accounts for more than 75% of the total spending increase over the past 8 years.

I've lived in Indy for 10+ years and I don't feel any more or less safe today than I did in 2000. So where is all of this public safety money going? This is a question to which I do not have an answer

I can appreciate that it's highly unpopular to question public safety spending. I imagine that's why we're here talking about the arts, a very easy and convenient punching bag.


The personal part of my beef with Peterson ended the night Ballard won the election.

The public part of me who stands up for the little guy -- like the elderly woman who can't afford her taxes and isn't safe in it from thugs -- has a beef with the insane spending that has been going on for several administrations.

This blog is an equal opportunity critic. Go back in the archives. You'll see we go after any politician or public agency that does not behave as a true servant and wise steward of our money.

You can thank your buddy Peterson though for getting me interested in local politics. When he threw my life under the bus to help his political career, I decided to learn everything I could about the politics that would drive a person to do such a cruel thing to one of his own citizens.

That's when I learned most of you don't care one wit about the people who fund you. (most, not all)

What I learned caused me to become an activist. There is a big part of me that gets off on standing up for the little guy who is clueless about how to fight city hall.

I always knew I'd 'beat' city hall.