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Update: Commission cancels funding for Brevard Cultural Alliance after rejecting 25 cultural grants

Brevard County Commissioner John Tobia says he has never voted to used Tourist Development Tax funds on cultural grants.
Brevard County Commission
Brevard County Commissioner John Tobia says he has never voted to used Tourist Development Tax funds on cultural grants.

Updated 5 p.m. Tuesday: Brevard County commissioners voted earlier this month to deny tourist tax funds for 25 cultural grants, including $15,000 for the Space Coast Pridefest, to spend that money on lifeguards instead.

On Tuesday morning, $212,160 in funding for the Brevard Cultural Alliance was on the chopping block. Commissioners voted 3-2 not to renew that contract, which funded about 40% of the BCA budget.

The vote came after several residents – like Theresa Grimison, president and CEO of the Community Foundation for Brevard – urged the commission to fund the arts, saying they’re important for the life and economy of Brevard.

I shudder to think,” Grimison said, “that we could become a Beaumont, the fictional town in the movie “FootLoose,” where they burned books and banned dancing. We want the joy. We need the arts. We need the creativity and the innovation.”

Newly appointed Commissioner Jason Steele called the BCA decision a mistake.

“I think it would be devastating to do away with BCA and do away with the thought about the wonderful arts program that we have in Brevard County,” he said.

Commission Chair Rita Pritchett said that months ago she gave the BCA fair warning to look for funding from the cities and elsewhere. Pritchett says that it’s an emotional issue but her job is to focus on the finances.

In past few months, Brevard County amped up lifeguard services along its beaches after several people drowned -- mostly due to rip currents -- in unguarded areas between December and May.

That added new costs. And the county attorney says commissioners can use Tourist Development Tax money for lifeguards if it’s tied to tourism marketing.

Updated: August 22, 2023 at 5:03 PM EDT
This article update to reflect the results of the Brevard County Commission meeting Tuesday morning.
Joe Byrnes came to WMFE/WMFV from the Ocala Star-Banner and The Gainesville Sun, where he worked as a reporter and editor for several years. Joe graduated from Loyola University in New Orleans and turned to journalism after teaching. He enjoys freshwater fishing and family gatherings.
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