City Approves Tax Funding for Cultural Groups


Dallas City Council | Image by Jonathan Richie / The Dallas Express

The City of Dallas has renewed an initiative that allows local tax dollars to fund various Dallas-based cultural organizations.

Originally established in 2018, the Cultural Organization Program is operated by the Office of Arts and Culture for the purpose of funneling tax dollars to local nonprofits to expand programming that could enrich community life.

Approved organizations can receive anywhere from $75,000 to over $1 million of taxpayer dollars based upon a number of factors, including the independent operating budget of the nonprofits.

The funding for the program is an allocation from the City’s general fund — derived primarily through property and sales tax collections — and from a portion of Hotel Occupancy Tax revenue.

During the City Council meeting on March 8, the members voted to pass a resolution approving the program guidelines that define the eligibility requirements and the review criteria for evaluating applications for fiscal years 2023 and 2024.

In the approved guidelines, the Office of Arts and Culture explains that it “aims to create an equitable, diverse and connected community, whose residents and visitors thrive through meaningful arts and cultural experiences in every neighborhood across Dallas.”

“We recognize that artistic and cultural expression are fundamental to the development of our identity, as individuals and as a community at large,” the document continues. “We assert the right for all people to have access to arts and cultural experiences throughout Dallas.”

Claiming to “recognize the historic legacies of racism, overt bias and injustice that shape our present reality,” the program “will strive to support the broadest range of art forms and creative producers, considering inclusivity, diversity and neighborhood impact to direct resources equitably to artists and organizations.”

“The Office of Arts and Culture will serve as convener and connector to catalyze equity in the policies and practices of its partners across the Dallas arts ecosystem” by “leading other organizations and private resources providers to advance diversity, equity and inclusion in concrete measurable ways,” the document claims.

Beginning on March 9, applications will be open to eligible organizations until April 12. The applicant criteria include many different requirements, such as being a 501(c)(3) in good standing, operating in Dallas as an arts or cultural organization for three years, having an “Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion” policy, and producing “an annual season of programs … in the City of Dallas.”

The program requires applicants to meet demographic quotas in the composition of their boards. For nonprofits with a budget of over $5 million, the board must have 30% diversity (i.e., no more than 70% of the board can be of any single race). Organizations with budgets from $1–5 million must have 20%, while smaller groups need 10%.

Additional evaluation points will be awarded for staff diversity rates, employee salaries, organizational capacity, how well the nonprofit “reflects the values of cultural equity, access, and inclusion,” as well as the perceived public benefit the programming will provide.

According to a timeline in the guidelines, submissions will be considered and organizations will be interviewed during April and May. Funding recommendations will be made and reviewed before going before the City Council for approval in October.

The Cultural Organization Program was approved as part of the consent agenda without debate. Several council members expressed gratitude to the Office of Arts and Culture for its work on the initiative.

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21 days ago

“Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion” is a cancer. It only leads to more entitled attitudes. You cant give away intelligence, prosperity or equity. It lowers the bar and only leads to move poverty.