Mecklenburg County has proposed a quarter-cent sales tax increase to fund arts education and parks and recreation.
The estimated $50 million revenue from the tax would be spent on expanding parks, funding The Arts and Science Council and increasing teacher salaries. But, of course, not everyone supports a tax increase. Opponents of the tax say the money would be better spent elsewhere, like affordable housing and public transportation.
When it comes to arts funding, the counter-argument is always that the money could be better spent. And yes, we should expand public transportation, but we also should care about the arts and parks a lot more than we do. It is a little inconvenient that the sales tax might go up a tiny bit, but it’s only a quarter-cent — less than the penny you probably pass on the sidewalk every day.
A lack of funding for arts isn’t a problem that's unique to Mecklenburg County. We see it on our own campus and in the surrounding community.
The Arts Everywhere campaign promised to better the arts at UNC, but it has fallen drastically short. The arts buildings are leaking and still don’t receive enough funding. In Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, funding for the arts is an uphill battle. (This is an important thing to keep an eye on in the upcoming school board elections!)
I made some of my best elementary school memories in art class. I interacted with people who were different than me at local parks because nothing brings kids together like slides and scraped knees. It’s heartwarming to think that with this increase in funding, more kids will be able to have safe summer days at the park with new friends and learn how to play the recorder in 5th grade.
Funding the arts makes for better students and better citizens. Arts enable an understanding and sharing of culture, as well as promote social skills to increase awareness and respect of others. A study found students who had arts curricula were "superior in creative thinking, self-concept, problem-solving, self-expression, risk-taking and cooperation" than those who did not.
Chapel Hill is a leader in so many fields, we should strive to make arts one of them. If all it takes is a quarter-cent increase to put us on the map for public art installations or neighborhood parks or whatever it is, I think that’s worth it.
Older generations are always telling kids to get outside and off of electronic screens. Funding parks that people actually want to go to is a great way to make sure that happens. The same can be said for art programs. The way to make better citizens is to get people excited and passionate about something.