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Niagara County budget proposes cultural endowment fund


Fri, Dec 1st 2023 03:15 pm

Submitted by the Public Information Office

As part of the Niagara County 2024 tentative budget, the Niagara County Legislature has created a cultural endowment fund to help support arts and other cultural organizations across the county, according to Chairwoman Becky Wydysh.

The $300,000 fund is coming from Niagara County’s share of revenue generated by Western Region Off-Track Betting (WROTB), which operates Batavia Downs Racetrack and Casino, as well as multiple off-track betting locations.

“The Arts and Culture Coalition of Niagara County, comprised of cultural institutions from across the county, gave a presentation to the legislature back in August that included a request for financial support,” Wydysh said. “The legislature recognizes that nonprofit arts and cultural groups serve as a tremendous driver of economic activity and enhance our overall quality of life, so we wanted to see how we could help. That is where the idea for a cultural endowment fund arose.”

Legislature Minority Leader Chris Robins said helping the cultural community grow and thrive is an important component to boosting the county’s tourism sector.

“We already know that Niagara Falls is a draw for millions of tourists a year, but the age-old question is what can we offer tourists once they are here to encourage a longer stay,” he said. “Our cultural assets like the Aquarium, the Castellani Art Museum, Old Fort Niagara, and the Niagara Arts and Cultural Center, among others across the county, are part of that answer, especially as they expand their programming and enhance the experiences they offer. To do that, they need our support.”

Legislator and Economic Development Committee Chairman Rich Andres said the legislature is committed to making strategic investments in the community that promote growth, and tries to do so without using funds from the property tax levy or sales tax.

“Our façade program was a huge success for small businesses, and we funded that with federal pandemic recovery funds,” he said. “We use money from the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission to support local business associations. Western Region OTB has had several record-breaking years, and that has generated significant funds for member counties. Thus, we are able to allocate the growth in OTB revenue to create the cultural endowment fund.”

The final vote on the 2024 county budget is scheduled for Dec. 12.

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