Leon County
Board of County Commissioners

Agenda Item#12
 
February 25, 2020
To: Honorable Chairman and Members of the Board
  
From: Vincent S. Long, County Administrator
  
Title: Alternative Structures for Administration of Cultural Programming
  

 

 

Review and Approval: Vincent S. Long, County Administrator
Department/Division
Review and Approval:
Alan Rosenzweig, Deputy County Administrator
Ken Morris, Assistant to the County Administrator
Kerri L. Post, Director, Division of Tourism
Lead Staff/
Project Team:
Nicki Paden, Management Analyst

 

 


Statement of Issue:

As requested by the Board, this agenda item provides alternative structures for the administration of cultural programming including grants to community organizations, implementation of the Cultural Plan, and designation of the local arts agency.

Fiscal Impact:  

This item has no fiscal impact.  Should the Board wish to contract with COCA for the administration of cultural grants, staff would bring back a five-year funding agreement through FY 2025 at the same FY 2020 operational and programmatic funding level consisting of $150,000 in general revenue and one-cent of TDT revenue (approximately $1.27 million).  Should the Board wish to in-source the administration of cultural programming grants under the Division of Tourism, service delivery enhancements and cost savings efficiencies may be realized given the similarity of day-to-day marketing and promotional services, grants administration, and support resources already available within the Division of Tourism.  

Staff Recommendation:

Option #3:       Board direction.

 

Report and Discussion

Background:

As requested by the Board, this agenda item provides alternative structures for the administration of cultural programming including grants to community organizations, implementation of the Cultural Plan, and designation of the local arts agency.  The County’s continued support of local cultural arts programs and activities advances the following FY2017-FY2021 Strategic Plan Bold Goal to:

 

This particular Bold Goal aligns with the Board’s Economy Strategic Priority:

 

At the Annual Retreat on December 10, 2018, the Board directed staff to schedule a presentation by the Council on Culture and Arts (COCA) on recent and planned process improvements for the cultural regranting programs.  At that time, the Board directed staff to prepare an agenda item for a subsequent meeting following the COCA presentation, providing an evaluation of alternatives for administering cultural grants.  On March 12, 2019, following a presentation from COCA’s Interim Executive Director, Amanda Thompson, the Board tabled the agenda item to evaluate alternative structures for administering cultural grants for one year, to be brought back in Spring of 2020 following the hire and transition of COCA’s new Executive Director.  Since that time, Ms. Kathleen Spehar began serving as Executive Director for COCA in August 2019 and presented an overview of COCA’s activities to the Board at the November 12th Commission meeting.

 

The County’s five-year funding Agreement with COCA expired on September 30, 2019.  The Agreement dedicated one-cent of Tourist Development Tax (TDT) to support the implementation of the Community Cultural Plan through the Cultural Grant Programs and an additional ¼ cent of TDT to support the Cultural Facilities Matching Grant Program.  On September 24, 2019, given the Board’s guidance to table the discussion on alternative structures for administering cultural grants until Spring 2020, the Board authorized a one-year agreement maintaining the same operational and programmatic funding levels for COCA to continue its implementation of the Cultural Plan and administering cultural programming grants (Cultural Grant and Cultural Tourism Marketing Grant Programs) through FY 2020.  The Board also authorized a separate one-year agreement with COCA governing the remaining proceeds from the ¼ cent TDT collected in FY 2019 for the Cultural Facilities Matching Grant Program to be regranted to eligible cultural organizations in FY 2020 (Attachment #1).  Starting in FY 2020, the ¼ cent TDT was reallocated to support the Division of Tourism including the creation of the Legacy Event Grants and the County Concert Series at the Amphitheater.

 

Consistent with the Board’s previous direction, staff conducted an extensive review of cultural grant programming models across the state to evaluate alternative structures utilized by other local governments.  This agenda item provides an overview of the County’s ongoing support for cultural grant programs administered by COCA, the findings of the local government survey, and alternative grant management structures for Board consideration.

 

Analysis:

As contracted through COCA, this agenda item details the County’s current structure for the administration of cultural grants including an overview of COCA’s management structure, services and programs, and funding levels.  Since the County contracted with COCA in 2003 to administer the implementation of the Cultural Plan, the Board has held several workshops and directed staff to conduct a management review related to the oversight of cultural grant programming in the community, including the exploration of operational efficiencies and alternatives to support the cultural arts in the community.  The management review presented to the Board on November 13, 2012 provided an analysis on COCA’s organizational structure, operation, financial records, and grants with several recommendations regarding improvements to COCA’s cultural grant process (Attachment #2).  Staff reported back on these recommendations during the Board’s Workshop on the Updated Cultural Plan in February 2014 (Attachment #3).

 

At that time, staff presented an option to further explore service delivery enhancements and efficiencies by in-sourcing the implementation of the Cultural Plan and administering cultural grants directly through the Division of Tourism to align with ongoing efforts to grow and support our community as a cultural destination.  However, at that time, the Board directed staff to continue to work with COCA in identifying potential service delivery enhancement and efficiencies in partnership with the County.  The Board accepted the update on these efforts during the September 15, 2015 Workshop on COCA’s Funding Structure and directed COCA to better align its organizational outcomes with elements of the Cultural Plan.

 

Based on the Board’s most recent request to evaluate alternatives for the administration of cultural grants, staff conducted an extensive review of cultural grant programming models across the state to evaluate alternative structures utilized by other local governments.  This agenda item provides an overview of the current administrative structure for allocating cultural grants through COCA, the County’s ongoing support of these programs, findings from the local government survey, and presents alternative administrative structures to manage cultural programs for Board consideration.

 

COCA Overview

The Tallahassee – Leon County Cultural Resources Commission was created in 1985 by County Resolution in accordance with Section 265.32, Florida Statutes, to stimulate greater awareness and appreciation for the arts, facilitate greater and more efficient use of public and private resources in support of the arts, and promote the development of artists, art institutions, and community organizations supporting arts activities.  The Resolution designated the Cultural Resources Commission, later to be named the Council on Cultural and Arts (COCA), as the local arts agency for the County and City.  An October 18, 1985 Interlocal Agreement with the City calls for the County and City to concur on the appointments of its members and makes clear that the County and City are not required to provide funding (Attachment #4).

 

Under its mission to coordinate planning for the community in the realm of arts, culture, and heritage, COCA is charged with the development and implementation of the Community Cultural Plan in collaboration with other community stakeholders.  COCA’s Board of Directors is comprised of 17 members representing various areas of expertise, as appointed by the County and City Commission.  COCA’s professional staff includes five full-time employees.

Since the adoption of the 2003 Cultural Plan, Leon County has contracted with COCA to support the implementation of the Cultural Plan through the administration of cultural grant programs.  The County’s contract with COCA is managed by the Division of Tourism.  Each year, the County dedicates funding to support cultural arts programs and activities through COCA with a combination of TDT revenue and general revenue.  The City of Tallahassee also provides $150,000 annually to COCA in support of these programs.

 

COCA annually sub-grants funding on behalf of the County to local nonprofit organizations that provide arts and cultural programming and activities.  COCA manages the annual grant application cycles and distribution of grant program guidelines which are revised each year.  Utilizing a diverse panel of community volunteers, COCA evaluates grant applications in accordance with the programming guidelines to determine funding award recommendations.  Award recommendations are reviewed by the Tourist Development Council (TDC) to ensure compliance with the appropriate uses of the TDT.  In addition, COCA coordinates with the Division of Tourism to cross-check information to ensure there is no duplication of funding requests.

 

COCA is responsible for executing and managing funding agreements with sub-grantees, including contract monitoring to ensure compliance with granting guidelines and utilization of TDT funds in accordance with Florida Statutes.  COCA offers technical reviews, consultations, and grant writing workshops, to assist participants throughout the year.  Following the announcement of grant awards, COCA also conducts final meetings with participants to review how the granting process might be improved in the future.

 

COCA’s Cultural Grant Programs

On behalf of the County and City, COCA has annually administered grant awards to local culture, arts, and heritage organizations through the cultural grant programs.  These grant programs are designed to support arts and cultural programs to create broader public access and participation in the arts which enhance the community's quality of life, local economy, and tourism impact.  These cultural grant programs include:        

 

 

COCA Funding Levels

After receiving the 2014 Cultural Plan Update, the County entered into a five-year funding agreement with COCA increasing its financial support for the implementation of the Cultural Plan and administration of the cultural grant programs.  Prior to this Agreement, the County dedicated a fixed amount of funding each year, $150,000 from general revenue and $504,500 of TDT, to support COCA’s operating expenses and to re-grant to cultural organizations each year.  At that time, the $504,500 in TDT equated to a little more than a ½ cent of TDT.

 

The five-year funding Agreement, which concluded on September 30, 2019, increased the County’s contribution to COCA through:

 

By shifting the County TDT funding from a fixed amount to a share of the TDT revenue, this made COCA and the cultural organizations receiving grant funds vested shareholders in drawing visitors to the destination to regenerate additional TDT funding.  As a result of this shareholder funding strategy, County funding for COCA steadily increased over the life of the five-year Agreement as the tourism tax base experienced significant growth during this period.  The value of a full one-cent of TDT has increased by 25% over the life of the five-year Agreement, from $997,436 in     FY 2015 to $1,268,025 in FY 2019.

 

The dedication of a one-full cent of TDT has provided additional revenue to COCA each year to support cultural arts programs and activities.  Graph #1 compares COCA’s funding levels from FY 2014 to FY 2019 by funding source.  FY 2014 was selected as a baseline as it represents COCA’s final budget before the County modified its funding strategy and entered into the five-year funding Agreement.  Based on COCA’s financial audits from those years, Graph #1 shows a 71% increase in COCA’s total budget over the six fiscal years from $935,000 to $1.6 million. 

 

Graph #1 shows the County and City’s combined funding contributions provided 90% of COCA’s FY 2014 budget.  In FY 2019, local government accounted for 94% of COCA’s budget.  As reflected in the comparison, the County share of COCA’s total budget in recent years grew from 70% to 82%.  Consistent with COCA’s annual financial audit, the County’s FY 2019 contribution of nearly $1.36 shown in Graph #2 includes $150,000 from general revenue and $1,209,354 in TDT.  It does not include the funds set aside from the ¼ cent TDT dedicated to the Cultural Facilities Matching Grant Program.

 

As reported in COCA’s FY 2014 Financial Audit                                 As reported in COCA’s FY 2019 Financial Audit
1 Includes the City’s annual funding dedicated to COCA for the Art in Public Places Program (approximately $42,000).
2 Does not reflect the City’s FY 2014 cultural grant funding administered in-house
3 Reflects the County’s projected TDT funding for the fiscal year with exception to the TDT funds set aside for the Cultural Facilities      Matching Grant Program.
 * Florida Arts License Plate sales remitted by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
 **Revenue contributions include membership fees, advertising revenue, and interest income.

Graph #1:  Comparison of COCA Funding Levels, FY 14 and FY 19 Financial Audits
In light of the Board’s direction to table this analysis until Spring 2020, staff brought an agenda item to the Board on September 24, 2019 seeking a one-year agreement with COCA to provide the same operational and programmatic funding levels ($150,000 from general revenue and one-cent of TDT) with exception to the additional ¼ cent TDT since the County fulfilled its five-year commitment for capital grant funding.  The Board approved the one-year Agreement for COCA to continue its implementation of the Cultural Plan and provide the management and administration of the cultural programming grants through FY 2020.  The Agreement with COCA expires on September 30, 2020.

County Review of Administrative Structures for Cultural Grant Programs

Consistent with the Board’s direction to evaluate alternatives for the administration of cultural grants, staff conducted an extensive review of cultural grant programming models utilized by other local governments across the stateAs previously conveyed during the February 11, 2014 Workshop on the Cultural Plan, there are generally two structures for the management and administration of local cultural grant programs.  Local governments can manage these grant programs in-house like most other agency grants or contract out portions of the grants administration function to the designated local arts agency.  At that time, staff presented an option to further explore service delivery enhancements and efficiencies by in-sourcing the implementation of the Cultural Plan and administration of cultural grants directly through the Division of Tourism to align with ongoing efforts to grow and support our community as a cultural destination.  However, the Board directed staff to continue to work with COCA in identifying potential service delivery enhancements and efficiencies in partnership with the County.

 

In revisiting this issue, staff surveyed 12 Florida counties to gauge their financial participation in the cultural arts, specifically the administration of grant programs to support local cultural organizations in their respective communities.  The survey compared Leon County with like-sized counties as well as larger counties that are lauded as an arts and cultural destination.  Table #1 provides survey data for counties with grant programs dedicated to arts and culture including the level of financial support and administrative structure for managing these programs.  Based on the information reflected in Table #1, the survey finds the following:

 

Four (33%) of the counties surveyed (Osceola, Lake, St. Lucie, and Flagler) do not designate any funding to be granted specifically for cultural programming and organizations in their communities.  Some of these counties budget for their own cultural expenses related to programming events at parks or amphitheaters, or capital funding for the restoration of historic properties.  Similar to Leon County, some counties administer event grant programs through their Tourism offices based on the projected return on investment associated with the event.  Cultural organizations are encouraged to apply for these funds and compete with other organizations hosting special events and/or sporting competitions, but no funds are specifically dedicated to support the programming and operational needs of cultural organizations.  Many of the 12 counties surveyed dedicate funding for other destination enhancing priorities including beach renourishment, amateur sports facilities, convention centers, historic preservation, and professional sports franchises. 

 

Seven of the eight counties that dedicate funding for cultural grant programs utilize TDT revenue.  Only Hillsborough County relies entirely on general revenue to administer arts and cultural grants in-house through its Community Economic Development Office.  Palm Beach and Broward Counties utilize a combination of general revenue and TDT similar to Leon County.  Table #1 shows that even though nearly all the counties with cultural grant programs rely on TDT funding, the utilization of TDT is not an indicator of whether the grants management function is contracted out or administered in-house by the counties.

Table #1: Administrative Structures for Cultural Grant Programs by County, FY 2020

County

Grant Administration

Total Funding Dedicated to Culture/Arts Grants

TDT Dedicated to Culture/Arts Grants

% of Total TDT Collections

Palm Beach

Contracted

$5.25 million

$5 million

9%

Broward

In-House

$3.9 million

$1.6 million

2%

Hillsborough

In-House

$2 million

$0

0%

Sarasota

Contracted

$2 million

$2 million

9%

Leon

Contracted

$1.43 million

$1.28 million

20%

Alachua[1]

In-House

$0.9 million

$0.9 million

17%

Polk

In-House

$0.9 million

$0.9 million

6%

St. Johns[1]

Contracted

$0.6 million

$0.6 million

5%

Brevard

Contracted

$0.5 million

$0.5 million

3%

Osceola[1]

N/A2

$0

$0

0%

Lake[1]

N/A2

$0

$0

0%

St. Lucie[1]

N/A2

$0

$0

0%

Flagler

N/A2

$0

$0

0%

[1] Like-sized Counties
2 Osceola, Lake, St. Lucie, and Flagler Counties do not dedicate funding for cultural grant programming

 

Through the survey, staff research, and conversations with other counties, the analysis finds that the counties contracting with local arts agencies assign varying levels of responsibility to the external partners.  Under the outsourcing or contracted out structure, local arts agencies administer cultural grant programming for the sub-granting of funds which may include:

 

Brevard and St. Johns Counties appoint their own panel to score grant applications with support from county staff and assign the local arts agency with the contract management responsibilities (contract execution, invoices, payments, compliance, reporting, etc.).  Alternatively, Sarasota County utilizes its local arts agency for everything but the execution and administration of contracts.  Sarasota County administers the cultural grants through its Office of Business and Economic Development, but its local arts agency develops the grant guidelines, evaluation criteria, and scores the grant applications for approval by the TDC and BOCC.  Palm Beach County operates most closely to Leon County in that the arts agency is contracted to administer the grant program each year from start to finish, however, no County or TDC approval is required prior to the arts agency awarding the grants.

 

Alachua, Broward, Hillsborough, and Polk Counties administer cultural grants directly through a department or division within the county government and utilize TDT, general revenue, or a combination of both to support cultural grant programs.  Alachua and Polk Counties are very similar to each other in that they are both managed by their respective tourism offices.  Hillsborough and Alachua Counties have both in-sourced the administration of their cultural grant funding in recent years to better align ongoing efforts to enhance their respective economic prosperity goals by positioning themselves as culturally appealing and vibrant destinations.  Hillsborough County’s program is administered by its Community Economic Development Department.  Broward County has a Cultural Division to manage these grant programs and other initiatives related to arts and culture.

 

Hillsborough, Broward, and Polk Counties utilize a volunteer review panel to score grant applications and provide recommendations for funding which are subject to final approval by the BOCC Only Alachua County utilizes its professional tourism staff to score applications and make recommendations which are reviewed and approved by the BOCC.

 

Alternatives for the Administration of Cultural Programming Grants in Leon County

The review and analysis of alternative structures to manage cultural grant programs affirms that there are generally two approaches to be considered for carrying out the regranting objective.  Local governments can contract out the grant administration function to the designated local arts agency or they can designate themselves to carry out cultural programs including the management of in-house grant programs like other public grant programs.  As previously mentioned, the Board tabled this evaluation of alternative structures to await the appointment and acclimation of a permanent Executive Director at COCA.  Since that time, Ms. Kathleen Spehar began as Executive Director for COCA in August 2019 and has since presented an overview of COCA’s activities to the Board.  In the interim, the Board approved a one-year agreement with COCA which expires September 30, 2020.  Board direction is needed for staff to facilitate the preferred administrative structure for FY 2021 and beyond. 

 

As the designated local arts agency for 35 years and operating under community-inspired Cultural Plans since 2003, COCA is actively engaged with the arts community and its needs.  Its 17-member board provides expertise in a variety of fields along with a professional staff of five full time employees.  Refined over many years, COCA’s infrastructure and communication medium to support artists and promote the importance of arts include:

 

Should the Board wish to maintain the current structure for the administration of cultural grants and programming, staff would bring back a five-year funding agreement with COCA through      FY 2025 for Board consideration.  Staff would continue to identify opportunities to increase collaboration with COCA on the implementation of the 2014 Cultural Plan and provide support to address concerns raised by applicants in recent grant cycles.  The proposed five-year agreement would maintain the same operational and programmatic FY 2020 funding formula for COCA consisting of $150,000 in general revenue and one-cent of TDT revenue, subject to annual appropriation by the Board during the regular budget process.  It would also provide for COCA’s participation and coordination with the County for the Tallahassee-Leon County Bicentennial in 2024.

 

A hybrid of this model would be to modify the scope of services to lessen COCA’s responsibilities in the administration of the cultural grant programs.  For example, Sarasota County utilizes its local arts agency for everything but the execution and administration of contracts.  Its local arts agency develops the grant guidelines, evaluation criteria, and scores the grant applications for approval by the TDC and BOCC.  However, staff does not recommend this hybrid model as it would require additional funding for the County, or a reduction in funding available to cultural organizations, as the Division of Tourism would have to take on labor intensive contract management responsibilities which are currently provided by COCA. 

 

Should the Board wish to in-source the administration of cultural programming, staff recommends aligning this function under the Division of Tourism given the volume of shared goals, the likeness of day-to-day promotional and marketing operations, and the organizational readiness of the Division of Tourism which is highly experienced in the distribution and oversight of grants programs.  In addition, cultural grants awarded to local organizations are almost entirely funded by TDT. 

 

The Division of Tourism currently implements many aspects of the Cultural Plan through its efforts to grow and support our community as a cultural destination including large-scale event management associated with the Leon County Concert Series at the Capital City Amphitheater.  The County already actively markets local culture, arts, and heritage events in partnership with a professional marketing and public relations firm.  As a result of these destination marketing efforts, Leon County has been recognized on several occasions for its cultural advantages such as being named:

 

Given the operational similarities of COCA and the resources available within a fully staffed Division of Tourism, service delivery enhancement and efficiencies may be realized by in-sourcing this function.  The Division of Tourism would create dedicated full-time position(s) to support the cultural arts transition and programming under the County.  Potential savings include the overhead costs for office expenses and lease, professional support services, staffing levels, and unified marketing platforms.

 

This would not be the County’s first experience in-sourcing a public program or service.  In 2009, the County performed a management review on the Tallahassee Area Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB), and nonprofit support organization responsible for managing the tourism marketing and visitor service functions on behalf of the County.  Effective FY 2010, the Board approved in-sourcing these functions and staffing under a newly structured Leon County Division of Tourism focused on making our community a year-found visitor destination.

 

Of the four counties that currently administer grants in-house, Hillsborough and Alachua Counties have both in-sourced the administration of their cultural grant funding in recent years to better align with their respective strategic goals.  Alachua and Broward Counties have taken the additional step of self-designating as the local arts agencies of record for their communities.  Under this designation, both counties are eligible to apply for certain state and federal grants and be the recipient organization of revenues generated through the Florida Arts License Plate sales.  For Leon County to assume responsibility for the implementation of the Cultural Plan and transition the administration of cultural grants in-house for the FY 2021 grant cycle, it would require several steps which are explained in greater detail in the next section of the analysis.

 

Option to Transition to the Division of Tourism

As required by Florida Statues, to levy TDT on overnight stays, the County must adopt and maintain a Tourist Development Plan by Ordinance (Tourism Ordinance) to serve as a framework to guide the efforts of the TDC and the expenditure of TDT collections.  The Tourism Ordinance was amended in 2015 to effectuate the allocation of one-cent of TDT to support cultural grant programs specifically administered by COCA (Attachment #5).  Should the Board wish to in-source the administration of cultural grants to the Division of Tourism, the County’s Tourism Ordinance would need to be amended to reallocate the one-cent TDT. 

 

If the County were to assume the cultural programming responsibilities for the FY 2021 grant cycle, staff would facilitate the following actions to ensure a smooth transition process:

 

This action would not dissolve COCA as it would be free to continue to operate as initially created by the County in 1985.  However, the reallocation of County funding may necessitate COCA’s consideration of their long-term role in the advancement of cultural programs.

 

Based on the Board’s direction, the County Attorney’s Office would prepare a draft Ordinance amending the Tourism Ordinance for an April 14, 2020 public hearing.  Pursuant to Section 125.0104, Florida Statutes, any substantive changes to the County’s Tourism Ordinance requires a public hearing and an affirmative vote of a majority plus one additional member of the Board.  Upon the Board’s approval to amend the Ordinance, staff can immediately begin the transition process for the next cultural grant cycle to assume full responsibility in FY 2021. 

 

Options:

  1. Direct the County Administrator to bring back a five-year agreement with COCA through FY 2025 at the same operational and programmatic funding level for Board consideration.
  2. Direct the County Administrator to schedule a public hearing on April 14, 2020 to amend the Tourism Ordinance and transition the administration of cultural programming under the Division of Tourism for FY 2021.
  3. Board direction.

 

Recommendation:

Option #3 - Board direction

Attachments:

  1. September 24, 2019 Agenda Item on Program and Funding Agreements with the Council on Culture and Arts.
  2. November 13, 2012 COCA Management Review.
  3. February 11, 2014 Workshop on the Updated Cultural Plan.
  4. 1985 Interlocal Agreement designating COCA as the local arts agency.
  5. January 27, 2015 Public Hearing on Amendments to Tourism Development Plan.