Detroit Institute of Arts is asking voters to approve a millage request on next week's ballot

Opponents say it's a tax homeowners cannot afford

The primary election is next week, and voters in Oakland, Wayne and Macomb counties will be asked to support a 10-year millage to help fund the Detroit Institute of Arts.

The millage amounts to $20 a year for a home with a value of $200,000 for the next ten years.

The Detroit Institute of Arts has been part of Detroit's cultural landscape since the 1800's but now its future is in question.

The battle is playing out on television with the DIA launching a million-dollar campaign to push voters to support the millage on the primary ballot.

"You don't want to go to a city and find out they don't have a major art museum so keeping the place vital and vibrant is absolutely essential," said Annmarie Erickson, Chief Operating Officer for the DIA.

The millage request would raise about $23 million a year.

Erickson says without voter support there will be drastic consequences.

"What will happen is we will begin immediately reducing staff, reducing programs, cutting what we deem to be the non-essential programs out of the budget."

And that could be just the beginning. Museum officials say they will get through early 2013, and then assess whether the museum can still remain open.

Opponents of the millage say the museum is asking too much from struggling homeowners

"There should be no additional tax added to people's property," says Bill McMaster of Taxpayers United Michigan Foundation. "That's unconscionable in these difficult economic times."

Several watchdog groups have lined up against the millage, and suggest that the DIA turn to its $100 million endowment.

"Borrow against their endowment, use their endowment as collateral," says Simon Haddad of Michigan Taxpayers Alliance. "They should be a benefit to the taxpayer instead of a burden."

Millage opponents say those who actually use the DIA should shoulder the bulk of funding, meaning visitors should pay higher admission fees.

And they say the television commercials are a scare tactic which is something museum officials don't necessarily deny.

"I suppose we are trying to create that sense of urgency, but it is not overstating the case to say that the institution could close without some sort of public support," says Erickson.

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