AURORA, Colorado – A man from Aurora is working to get an initiative over the November ballot calling for the city’s withdrawal from the Science and Cultural Facilities District (SCFD).
Jeff Brown announced on Tuesday that he had created a nonprofit called Venues Aurora and released voting language that would detach the city from SCFD.
In an interview, Brown told Denver7 that he believes Aurora has grown too big for the neighborhood and it is time for the city to create its own with an emphasis on promoting the arts scene.
The SCFD was established in 1988 by voters and is funded by a 0.1% sales tax. The revenue generated is then used to support 320 different arts, culture and science organizations in the Denver metro area. In 2020, it distributed $ 63 million across the seven participating counties.
The SCFD breaks down its funding in stages. On the first level: the Denver Art Museum, the Denver Botanical Gardens, the Denver Center for the Performing Arts, the Denver Museum of Nature and Science, and the Denver Zoo.
Together, these five entities receive the most support from SCFD. A 2016 report found that the five Denver-based entities received around $ 36 million in total. Tier two recipients include dozens of other cultural entities, including the City of Aurora Cultural Services Division, which received $ 291,129.
Third-level recipients receive the least amount of money based on their size and include hundreds of other organizations like the Aurora Symphony Orchestra (received $ 21,525) and Aurora Singers ($ 7,103), according to the report. 2016.
“It is important to fund culture and the arts, but it is important to do it fairly. I have no argument with the overall goal; it really depends on how the funds are diverted from Aurora, frankly, ”Brown said.
He maintains that for too long Aurora has contributed more than she received as a District Member.
“We pay $ 7.1 million (annually) and only recover less than $ 700,000 from Aurora entities,” Brown said. “Consider what would have happened if this 0.1% sales tax had been applied to cultural entertainment facilities in Aurora. Today we would have a very different image from what we have today.
The ballot proposal calls on Aurora to establish its own cultural facilities district over a three-year period and establish an 11-member council to lead the district.
The council would be appointed by the commissioners of the counties of Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas. The proposal does not call for raising taxes but rather redirecting taxes from Aurora to the city itself.
The proposal also provides that 20% of the tax collected by the new district to fund cultural organizations such as the Aurora Fox Arts Center, while the remaining 80% would be used to build new cultural facilities in the city, including a hall. 10,000-seat show. center.
In order to get the proposal on the ballot, Brown says he intends to collect 4,000 signatures and then hand them over to Adams, Arapahoe and Douglas counties to put the question on the county ballot rather than on a municipal ballot. For that, he says he would need to collect 12,000 signatures.
However, in a statement in Denver7, SCFD Executive Director Deborah Jordy said that for 30 years voters have overwhelmingly approved the creation and maintenance of the district. The most recent vote took place in 2016, which ensured its continuation for another 12 years.
“While we understand the hope for better entertainment options in Aurora, voters have approved the continuation of the SCFD and their will cannot be changed by a city vote. We urge Mr. Brown to find others. means to legally pursue its laudable objective, ”the statement said.
SCFD pointed out that in 2020, 44% of Aurora’s population visited a Level I organization, or approximately 169,000 people.
Meanwhile, in 2021, the Denver Center for Performing Arts is expected to sell 60,000 Van Gogh Alive tickets in Aurora. SCFD says this highlights how the areas are intertwined and the need for a regional approach.
“The neighborhood was never intended to build buildings or invest taxpayer money in the economic development of a single city,” the SCFD statement said.
Meanwhile, the City of Aurora sent Denver7 a statement saying it is still looking for opportunities to enrich the city’s cultural and arts scene and that the mayor and city council have yet to discussed this proposal, so they cannot take a position on it.
For now, Brown says he will go ahead with the proposal and work on collecting signatures to get it on the ballot.
“We have to let go of the legacy and look to the future,” Brown said. “We have the space, we have the views, we don’t yet have the political will.”