On behalf of the Detroit Institute of Arts, I am responding to the , which contained some misinformation. We want your readers to know the facts before considering the millage proposal.
The ballot language was drafted by County election officials. The proposal insures compliance with State legislation, which authorizes the establishment of a County art institute authority. This authority can assess and collect a millage that is dedicated exclusively to supporting art services. We want voters to know this is a millage to support operations at the Detroit Institute of Arts, which serves Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties in numerous ways. Here are just a few of the ways the DIA serves Oakland County:
- For the past two years the DIA has welcomed all 5th grade students in the Rochester Public Schools for guided tours.
- 200 schools and more than 12,000 students from Oakland County have toured the museum and created art in our studio during the 2010–2012 school years.
- In 2012, 3,400 students from 43 Oakland County schools received free admission and transportation to the museum, thanks to a grant the DIA secured from Target Corporation.
- The DIA spent $2,295,777 with Oakland County vendors for goods and services in the last fiscal year.
- In 2011 and 2012, the DIA brought reproductions of masterpieces to 13 Oakland County cities as part of its Inside|Out program, and more Oakland County communities are slated for this summer.
As to the writer’s other points:
- The millage effort is patterned after the Detroit Zoo’s successful August 2008 campaign. While there are fewer major candidates and issues on the August ballot, there is still sufficient voter interest and the smaller ballot allows issues-based campaigns the ability to fully make their case to voters. Less “noise” around the presidential election allows the DIA to communicate more effectively and cost efficiently.
- The DIA’s financial situation is not due to poor management, but is a result of several factors, mainly the loss of state and city support and the recession that has made fundraising much more difficult. The DIA has been and continues to be fiscally responsible. In addition to balancing the budget every year, the museum’s financials are subjected to annual outside audits and consistently receive the highest rating.
- In 2009, the DIA reduced its workforce by nearly 20% (more than 60 full- and part-time positions), moved from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan, discontinued its retiree health-care plan, and reduced operating expenses by $8.6 million.
- The art authorities in each county, whose members are appointed by the commissioners and county executives, will ensure the DIA is using millage revenue only for museum operations and the DIA is required to submit an annual audit.
- The renovation completed in 2007 cost $158 million, $40 million of which was to remediate asbestos in the building – an unexpected cost. Planning began in 1998, much earlier than the current recession. The project was necessary to repair crumbling infrastructure that was potentially hazardous to visitors.
- Under a contract with the City of Detroit, the DIA manages the museum. It is required to adhere to standard museum professional practices, which include the stipulation that art cannot be sold to pay for operations; money from the sale of art can only be used to purchase other art.
We hope voters agree that the benefits of passing the millage, which include unlimited free general admission, more programs for students and seniors, and bus subsidies, are worth the relatively small investment of around $10 per year for a home worth $100,000. In addition, the millage will help ensure that the DIA is around for future generations to enjoy.
Graham W. J. Beal, Director, Detroit Institute of Arts
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