Champions for Arts and Culture

(April 14) – The House voted 49-16 today to approve a bill by Speaker Dickey Lee Hullinghorst to ask voters in November to reauthorize and improve the Scientific and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD).

“The SCFD is a nationally acclaimed voter-supported funding model for arts, culture and science,” said Speaker Hullinghorst, D-Boulder, who sponsored the bill with Assistant Minority Leader Polly Lawrence, R-Littleton. “Since its inception in 1988, voters have twice reauthorized a tax of one penny on every 10 dollar purchase to provide funding for hundreds of organizations across the seven-county region. Today, these tax dollars support 275 large and small organizations and a whole diverse array of opportunities for citizens to experience everything from world class facilities to small, intimate performances.”

SB16-016 asks voters to continue the 0.1 percent sales tax for the SCFD through 2030 and makes several changes to the funding formula for SCFD recipients by increasing funding to smaller organizations categorized as Tier 2 and Tier 3 recipients.

The board of the SCFD recently created a new grant fund supported by the larger institutions to support smaller organizations that serve traditionally underserved communities including racial and ethnic minorities, people with mental and physical disabilities, the elderly, veterans, the GLBTQ community, low-income communities and geographically underserved areas. The grant fund will have a minimum of $750,000 a year and the SCFD will actively look for private dollars for the fund as well; total funding will be at least $9 million over the next several years.

“The SCFD Board and the smaller organizations that were persistent in their desire to ensure there is equity in funding should be applauded for their efforts to create a new grant fund to support underserved communities,” said Majority Leader Crisanta Duran, D-Denver, who brokered the negotiations over the new grant fund. “This collaboration will ensure smaller organizations will have access to needed dollars for capacity building that serve racial and ethnic minorities, people with physical and mental disabilities, the elderly, low income populations, veterans, the GLBTQ community and geographically under-served small towns or rural areas.”

“I know firsthand the importance of small organizations that bring the arts to underserved communities,” she continued. “Because long before I was a legislator, I studied flamenco and Mexican folklorico dance with Fiesta Colorado directed by Jeanette Trujillo. From third grade through law school, involvement in dance enabled me not only to have a deep appreciation for the arts, but it was also important to my overall youth development. Too often these smaller organizations, like Fiesta Colorado, struggle financially from year to year without a real opportunity for capacity building. The new grant fund is an incredible victory for smaller organizations and all who benefit from their community involvement.”

The SCFD was first approved by voters in 1988 to provide funding for art, music, theater, dance, zoology, botany, natural history, and cultural history organizations in the Denver metropolitan area through a 0.1 percent sales tax. The SCFD tax was approved twice more by voters in 1994 and 2004. Approximately $40 million is distributed to these facilities annually and the SCFD holds tremendous value for Colorado.

The vote sends the bill to the House floor for third reading.

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