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State Arts, Libraries Agencies Prepare for Further Cuts

A state House budget subcommittee asked cultural agencies Monday how they’re preparing for another year of cuts.

Oklahoma Arts Council Director Amber Sharples said their first cuts would be to community arts programs.

"These go very heavily to our rural communities — the festivals that take place everywhere from Claremore, Idabel, across the state," Sharples said. "So, obviously, that would have ramifications."

Oklahoma Department of Libraries Director Susan McVey told the subcommittee she has to spend money on certain things in order to get more than $2 million in federal dollars.

"And that's what we use for some of the projects that we talked to you about, like the statewide licenses for databases and the public library summer reading program and interlibrary loan," McVey said.

The subcommittee asked to hear from the arts council and the libraries department on how budget cuts of 2.5 percent, 5 and 7.5 would impact them next fiscal year.

With a $611 million budget hole looming, the subcommittee asked if their revolving funds would help ease another round of cuts.

Sharples said theirs would go toward educational programs.

"Being able to expend those funds and get them out to more districts and communities across the state is more likely than us keeping the revolving fund," she said.

McVey warned the subcommittee it’s not a long-term solution, however.

"It's one time," she said. "We can only do it one time."

The two agencies’ budgets are down nearly 30 percent from 2008. Both directors said they’ve done everything they can to save, from eliminating travel budgets to carrying a 44 percent vacancy rate.

Matt Trotter joined KWGS as a reporter in 2013. Before coming to Public Radio Tulsa, he was the investigative producer at KJRH. His freelance work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times and on MSNBC and CNN.