Ann Arbor’s Percent for Art Funding Now History

The Ann Arbor city council has taken the final step toward changing the city’s public art ordinance, so that capital improvement projects are no longer required to set aside 1% of their budgets for public art. The action eliminating the Percent for Art approach came on June 3, 2013. The council had given initial approval to the ordinance change at its May 13, 2013 session.

In separate action, the council also voted to return to its funds of origin some of the money that had previously been set aside for public art.

The main change to the ordinance is to eliminate any reference to a specific percentage for art in a capital project budget. Also, art funds would not be pooled as they are now – which entails setting aside money from projects into which it would be difficult to incorporate public art. Under the amended approach, city staff will work to determine whether a specific capital improvement should have enhanced design features “baked in” to the project – either enhanced architectural work or specific public art. The funding for any of the enhanced features would be included in the project’s budget and incorporated into the RFP (request for proposals) process for the capital project.

At the council’s April 1, 2013 meeting, a vote was taken to extend a moratorium on spending of public art funds – through May 31. The council had originally enacted the moratorium on spending at its Dec. 3, 2012 meeting.

The action to impose a moratorium came in the context of a failed millage proposal in November 2012, which was meant to provide an alternative funding mechanism to the Percent for Art approach. The millage proposal was put forward in part in response to objections that voters had not explicitly approved the Percent for Art mechanism, which taps all capital funds – even those deriving from fees and millages designated for other purposes.

The council also considered two items on its June 3 agenda to reallocate monies to their funds of origin that had been set aside under the previous public art ordinance. Both proposals were to change the council’s budget, which under the city charter means that an eight-vote majority was required on the 11-member council.

The first resolution, sponsored by Jane Lumm (Ward 2) and Sumi Kailasapathy (Ward 1), would have returned monies to their funds of origin that had been set aside for public art in previous years under the ordinance. It was limited to those funds that have not yet been allocated to specific art projects. But the necessary amendment to the public art ordinance that would have allowed that fund transfer failed on a 3-7 vote, getting additional support only from Sally Petersen (Ward 2). So Lumm withdrew the resolution when the council reached that point on its agenda. It would have returned the following amounts to the respective funds for a total of $845,029:

  • 002-Energy $3,112
  • 0042-Water Supply System $61,358
  • 0043-Sewage Disposal System $451,956
  • 0048-Airport $6,416
  • 0069-Stormwater $20,844
  • 0062-Street Millage $237,314
  • 0071-Parks Millage $28,492
  • 0072-Solid Waste $35,529

The second resolution – sponsored by Margie Teall (Ward 4), Stephen Kunselman (Ward 3), Christopher Taylor (Ward 3), Sally Petersen (Ward 2) and Sabra Briere (Ward 1) – returned just the money set aside in the FY 2014 budget, which was approved by the council on May 20, 2013. The second resolution returned the following amounts to the respective funds, for a total of $326,464:

  • 0042-Water Supply System $113,500
  • 0043-Sewage Disposal System $50,050
  • 0069-Stormwater $33,500
  • 0062-Street Millage $120,700
  • 0071-Parks Millage $8,714

This second proposal was supported unanimously. The council had already included explicit language in the public art ordinance amendment allowing for the return of money to the funds of origin that had been set aside in the FY 2014 budget for public art.

This brief was filed from the city council’s chambers on the second floor of city hall, located at 301 E. Huron. A more detailed report will follow: [link]