Detroit Institute of Arts will ask voters to extend property tax

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The strains of the city’s bankruptcy linger for the museum that played a central role in Detroit’s plan of debt adjustment.

The Detroit Institute of Art announced it would seek on the March ballot to renew a millage that is set to expire in two years.

Detroit Institute of Arts is seeking to renew a millage that raises roughly $23 million a year for the institution.

Bloomberg News

Voters in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties approved a 10-year, 0.2 tax millage in 2012, which added around $23 million a year in funding to the museum. At the time, the DIA said it would not seek a renewal. In return for that tax, residents of the three counties have free admission to the museum.

The goal was to set up an endowment that could fund 60% of its $38 million annual operating budget once the millage expired. As part of Detroit’s plan of adjustment, the city’s ownership of the museum was transferred to the nonprofit Detroit Institute of Arts, Inc., in December 2014.

The museum’s board of directors this week voted to request that Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties place the renewal of the tax on the March 10 ballot. Each of the counties respective art authorities will need to vote by Dec. 17 in order for the DIA to file the proposal on time.

The endowment was approximately $91 million in 2012. David Flynn, DIA senior vice president of community and public affairs said that it has since reached $230 million but in 2014 it had to raise $100 million to prevent DIA artworks being sold during Detroit’s bankruptcy.

Flynn said the DIA raised $100 million “that went to support city of Detroit pensioners instead of the endowment. This also makes it difficult to return to those donors so soon to ask for endowment funds.”

The DIA stated in a release that the millage renewal will allow the museum to continue to offer free educational opportunities to students in local schools, provide free professional development to more than 1,500 teachers annually.

“Since 2012, we have transformed the DIA to a museum that is outwardly-focused, building relationships with the residents of all three counties by providing important services to students, seniors, veterans and thousands of others,” Flynn said. “To continue providing those services at the current level, a renewal of the millage is necessary.”

The DIA has no debt, and as a result of the Grand Bargain agreement forged in the city’s bankruptcy case, the collection, building and grounds are now held by the DIA.

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