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Millions of dollars cut from state budget for funding for the arts

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SARASOTA, FL (WWSB) - It's a major blow for the arts community in Sarasota and Manatee Counties as well as the entire state. 

Last year's 11.1 million dollar budget in Cultural and Museum grants has plummeted to 2.65 million dollars in this years state budget. 

It's money that is shared by 480 organizations statewide, meaning some places that were going to receive a $150,000 grant will now see less than $10,000.

"We are one of the richest arts and cultural areas of the country," said Jim Shirley, Executive Director for the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County.  "And the lack of funding for the state art grants this year is going to cost Sarasota County organizations about 3 million dollars in direct funding"

Shirley went on to say he understands why the state has to do this but it makes things very challenging for the arts community.  In fact he tells us that he most likely will have to eliminate one of the positions at the Arts and Cultural Alliance.  The Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe in Sarasota is another organization feeling these cuts, but because they receive other grants and funding from private donors, the theater's development director says they are going to be okay.

"It will make some impact, but overall it's not going to make or break our season," said Debra Flynt-Garrett, a Development Director for the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe.

State Representative Joe Gruters says between Hurricane Irma and adding resource officers to schools following the Parkland tragedy, the focus on this budget shifted.  He tells us he is all for the arts and that he will continue to push for more funding.

"I've been a huge advocate and a believer of that every dollar we put in gives us back a ten-fold return," said Gruters.  "And I will do all I can moving forward to fight for every dollar that I can."

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