City of Aspen: Nonprofit salaries influence grant amounts
Money for arts
The city of Aspen has $345,800 in grants to nonprofit arts organizations slated for 2015. Here’s a look at the arts groups that will receive at least $20,000 in grant money from the city, along with their highest compensation packages.
Organization Grant amount Highest compensation package
Aspen Art Museum $20,000 $894,984
Aspen Film $23,000 $82,375
Aspen Santa Fe Ballet $65,000 $127,838
Aspen Writers Foundation $20,000 n/a
Jazz Aspen Snowmass $30,000 $105,299
Music Associates of Aspen $85,000 $443,362
Red Brick Council for the Arts $30,000 $22,355*
Theatre Aspen $35,000 n/a
* Number is reflective of portion of the year because executive departed organization.
Source: City of Aspen and IRS
The city of Aspen has gradually reduced its grant amounts for the Aspen Art Museum in light of the nonprofit’s executive pay, with the City Council most recently approving a $20,000 grant for the museum for the 2015 budget year.
In 2014, the city issued a $25,000 grant to the museum and in 2013, one for $30,000. From 2008 to 2012, the city gave the museum $32,000 annually.
“It’s been an issue at the council table for years,” said Mayor Steve Skadron. “There are these nonprofits that have the wherewithal to pay enormous salaries and they come to the city and ask for money.”
In October, Aspen City Council approved a $20,000 grant for the museum. The museum, which opened its new 33,000-square-foot facility in August in downtown Aspen, had requested $100,000.
The museum’s CEO, executive director and chief curator, Heidi Zuckerman, is the highest-paid executive of any Aspen-based nonprofit. Tax records show her compensation for the tax year ending Sept. 30, 2013, was $864,034. Her nontaxable benefits, which amounted to $30,950, made her total package worth $894,984. The art museum’s most recent Form 990, the paperwork that nonprofits file with the IRS, only listed the pay of one other employee, Deputy Director John Paul Schaefer, whose total compensation package was worth $215,496.
Before the City Council approves its disbursements, it acts on the recommendations of the six-member Citizen Grant Review Committee, which analyzes funding requests from nonprofits.
Its chair, Kathryn Koch, said the art museum has received grants “for as long as I’ve been on the committee.”
“Last year, we lowered the amount, and the executive salary was one of the reasons,” Koch said. “When we look at their financial health, we look at how much they need the city’s support and other things like executive salaries. One of the questions we ask them is ‘What are their top three paid positions?’ and we take that into consideration.”
Asked if he felt the art museum needed the city’s financial help, Skadron replied, “No.” But the mayor said there’s a bigger picture the city considers before handing out grants.
“There’s a little bit of balance, and while paying a salary like that suggests that the art museum can fund its programs without city money, I am aware what the arts and culture do to make the broader economy,” he said. “There is, perhaps, a justification in supporting these programs that do so much for our community.”
In 2014, the city gave out $344,000 to nonprofit arts organizations. The city has $345,800 earmarked for grants to arts organizations in 2015.
The highest grant for 2015 — $85,000 — went to Music Associates of Aspen, which does business as the Aspen Music Festival and School. Its CEO, Alan Fletcher, had a total compensation package worth $443,362 in the year ending Sept. 30, 2013, according to tax records. The Music Festival had asked the city for $150,000 for 2015.
Aspen Santa Fe Ballet drew the second highest city grant for arts organizations — $65,000. Executive Director Jean-Philipe Malaty and Artistic Director Tom Mossbrucker each earned $127,838 for the tax year ending Aug. 31, 2013.
City Finance Director Don Taylor, who also sits on the Citizen Grant Review Committee, said that the panel puts much thought and scrutiny into the nonprofits seeking grants.
“They are seen as important contributors to the arts fabric of this town,” Taylor said. “And they are important tourist draws.”
Koch said nonprofits have expressed that getting a grant from the city gives them added credibility on the fundraising trail.
“Everyone wants a grant from the city so that they can leverage that and say the city of Aspen supports them,” she said. “And that’s something we discuss. One of our questions (to the nonprofits) is why do you need a grant from the city and oftentimes people say they need it so when they are fundraising, or when they go to the state or the National Endowment for the Arts, they can say they got a grant from the city and the city supports them.”
In 2014, the National Endowment for the Arts gave a $55,000 grant to the Aspen Music Festival and School, $20,000 to Aspen Santa Fe Ballet and $15,000 to Aspen Film. Those are the only three Aspen recipients of 2014 grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, which was created by Congress in 1965 as an independent agency of the federal government.
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