An Open Letter from Dan McCleary
Tennessee Shakespeare Company founder and producing artistic director
May 21, 2013
Dear Friend of Shakespeare.
The City of Germantown, TN, in which Tennessee Shakespeare Company resides, is proposing to eliminate entirely the City's education grant funding to TSC for the annual budget to begin July 1, 2013.
The City generously awarded education grants to TSC in varying sums for the past five years. TSC has always matched these grant dollar-for-dollar. For the past two years, this funding has totaled $70,000 each year for immersive, innovative, classical education for ALL Germantown students (not just theatre students). What's more, the grant is made possible not by tax-payers but by those of us (TSC included) who rent the Germantown Performing Arts Center in town. Now, the City wants those rental fees to help offset issues in their annual budget.
To our knowledge, TSC's education program is the only arts and education grant being proposed for 100% elimination.
The grant makes possible TSC's classical education program and free/discounted access to live, professional Shakespeare to thousands of students at the five Germantown schools, including free playshops, free residencies, Free Will Kids Nights, deeply-discounted morning matinees of all of TSC's professional productions, the innovative Romeo and Juliet Project, and the pre-show Prelude scenes.
The City says that the economy is forcing it to make difficult decisions. For those of you who have had your position eliminated or salary cut in the past four years, as we have done at TSC, I am sure you, as I, appreciate this position.
However, what we have never done at TSC is cut or eliminate a program that was more than doubling its return on investment financially while also providing a socially responsible and academically measurable service to our community. That would be a questionable business decision. And we certainly wouldn't be adhering to our mission.
I respectfully submit to you that the City, in proposing this education program de-funding, is addressing other priorities than its stated mission.
On pages 5 and 6 of the City's proposed FY14 Budget, in the "Vision 2020" section, the identified focus areas of the city's Board of Mayor and Aldermen are formally charged as making Germantown the "preferred place to live" through the promotion of "entertainment opportunities" and "cultural arts and enrichment," among others.
TSC is the only professional, classical theatre and education organization in the immediate tri-state region and provides, distinct from any other theatre in the area, the following:
- the regionally-recognized, in-school classical education program in Germantown English classes that this year will teach over 16,000 students in total;
- the hiring of over 80 professional artists, musicians, directors, choreographers, stage managers, and designers from around the United States to live and work and spend in Germantown in Germantown homes for over 100 FY weeks;
- nearly 20,000 patrons to its performances and Gala;
- a minimum of a $1.2 million economic impact to the community we serve (reference: Dr. Ciscel, Christian Brothers University, Business School, TSC Impact Study);
- over $50,000 in FY marketing investments, drawing tourism and patron attention to Germantown (7% of our paying audiences are from out-of-state);
- a tour to four states with our schools performances, playing to over 7,000 parents and students, who see Germantown, TN, as the home of the south's rising, vital Shakespeare theatre;
- and most importantly: TSC makes students we teach better human beings, more socially responsive, more caring, more articulate, more engaged, and over the last year we improved their overall test scores in English Arts by a grade and a half -- that means a C+ just went to an A- when TSC is in the classroom.
It is crucial, beginning today, that the Germantown Aldermen, City Administrator, and Mayor hear from you and your Germantown friends on this matter. They will welcome it. I include the City of Germantown contacts below:
Alderman Greg Marcom:
"We Respectfully Request"
"Either find the money in the budget, as you are currently able to do with other arts organizations, or add one-half of one cent to the Germantown property tax adjustment that is proposed for FY14."
The city budget currently proposes a property tax increase of 44.5 cents per $100 of assessed valuation. This is its first substantial property tax increase in many years.
It is reported by one of the Aldermen that this proposed increase was at 90 cents in February negotiations.
We propose making the property tax adjustment a total of 45 cents in FY14 in order to sustain TSC's singular and successful education programs in Germantown at zero-level funding: $70,000, which TSC would again match.
This idea began, on the public record, with one of the City's Aldermen.
Attend and Speak at the Next City Meeting
The next meeting of the Germantown Board of Mayor and Aldermen is Monday, June 10 at 6:00 pm at City Hall at the corner of Farmington Blvd and Germantown Road.
We need you, your friends, TSC supporters, and your Germantown family and friends to attend. We also would like for you to speak. This is the one meeting, which provides for the second of three readings of the proposed budget, at which there is a public hearing for anyone to stand and address the Board for up to three minutes on behalf of TSC.
The first reading of this proposed budget passed. We need at least three of the five Aldermen's votes to amend the budget.
You will want to arrive early to sign up to speak: no later than 5:45 pm.
The City of Germantown has been supportive and instrumental in helping to launch and sustain TSC in our developmental years. We are only requesting to continue that same funding, which we believe we have earned over the past five years.
In your communications and address, please do be mindful of this. Our respect, appreciation, and grace with which we make our request for consideration will help us be heard.
Thank you for speaking in support of TSC continuing its classical education of as many students as possible in our community.