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Mar 25, 2014 4:09 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

Parrish Art Museum To Hold Budget Vote In April

Mar 31, 2014 9:32 AM

Residents of the Southampton School District are being asked to pay $326,509 to help support the Parrish Art Museum in the 2014-15 school year through a tax levy to be voted on in April.

The tax, which represents only a fraction of the not-for-profit museum’s overall operating budget, has been levied annually since the early 1970s. Until this year, district residents voted on the tax as a referendum that accompanied their annual school budget votes, and the district levied the tax on behalf of the Parrish Art Museum.

This year, the vote on the Parrish levy will be held separately at the museum’s new home on Montauk Highway in Water Mill.

Other than the new location, the proposed levy represents no change from the past five years. It has not increased and falls below the mandated New York State tax levy cap of 1.46 percent.

While it is unusual on the East End for a museum to levy a property tax, according to Parrish attorney Kevin Seaman of Stony Brook, New York State education law allows taxes to be raised on behalf of state-chartered museums to fund public programs. The Southampton Youth Association and the Southampton Historical Museum also levy small taxes, which are approved by voters during the school budget vote.

“Nothing has changed in terms of how this money comes to the museum or the way you vote to support your museum,” Museum Director Terrie Sultan said at a public hearing about the budget vote last week. “Just like the libraries, the Parrish is doing the vote on site, so that people can come to the museum and see and experience firsthand what we have to offer if they have not been here before, so they can see what they are supporting.”

According to Ms. Sultan’s presentation last week, the tax levy represents only 7 percent of the Parrish’s $4.9 million operating budget, and the money generated will be used to create and maintain programs at the museum that local residents benefit from.

The rest of the budget is generated through donations and fundraisers, as well as admission fees and other revenues.

Based on this year’s tax rate of $0.015 per $1,000 of assessed valuation, a taxpayer with a home valued at $500,000 will pay approximately $7.50 in Parrish taxes next year, according to the Southampton Town Tax Assessors office.

According to legal notices that appeared in The Southampton Press, the tax has been levied annually to support the Parrish Art Museum since the year 1973, when the levy was $6,000.

State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. said that although it is uncommon for organizations other than libraries to impose a separate tax levy, it is not unheard of. According to Mr. Thiele, the Bridgehampton Child Care and Recreation Center and the Sag Harbor Park Association levy a property tax, each through its respective school district.

No other art museums or theaters on the East End generate revenue through a separate tax levy, even though their operating budgets are significantly lower than the Parrish’s. Moreover, of the area’s major cultural institutions—The Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center, Guild Hall, The Children’s Museum of the East End, and Bay Street Theater—The Parrish appears to be the most healthy. In 2012, the most recent year for which a public filing is available, the Parrish posted a surplus of revenue over expenses of more than $4 million and had a cash on hand of nearly $5 million—although officials pointed out that much of those funds were earmarked for the construction of the new Parrish building in Water Mill.

By contrast, for the same year, The Westhampton Beach Performing Arts Center and Guild Hall had excess revenue of $1.1 million and $322,000, respectively, while both Bay Street and the Children’s Museum operated at a deficit.

This week, Southampton Town Tax Assessor Lisa Goree said she was unaware the Parrish had opted to move its vote from the school, but that it continued to be allowed under education law.

“The taxes for the assessed value would be distributed to the residents that benefit from using that museum within the Southampton School District,” Ms. Goree said. “In order to meet the needs of their budget, they raise the money through the property tax assessments.”

Last week, Scott Howe, the deputy director of the Parrish, said the money will be used to put on a variety of shows, including five art exhibits showcasing five artists from across the country, a sixth exhibit focusing on the work of students from local schools, an after-school art program and an after-school outreach program. The museum also provides 300 tours and workshops throughout the year, with Southampton School District residents getting first priority when tickets are sold.

The money will also help support several partnerships with the Southampton School District, including the Parrish Art Club at the high school and an art history program for fifth- and sixth-graders.

Only a handful of people attended the public information meeting on March 19 at the museum. The vote is scheduled for Wednesday, April 9, also at the museum, with polls open from noon to 8 p.m. More information about the vote, and about museum services, is available online at Parrishart.org.

“A healthy community needs an income avenue where revenue comes in,” Ms. Sultan said. “We really want our Parrish community, residents and voters, to feel like real stakeholders in our museum.”

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So much money has been appropriated for this museum, and the building is very unwelcoming and unattractive. Aside from the collections, the inside of the building isn't much better. They should have gotten a local architect.
By hamptonite (26), hamptons on Mar 29, 14 2:07 PM
In response to the first two comments I want to set y'all straight. Back in the 1930''s to 1950' a family owned business on that property was named Justa Poultry Farm. There was a chicken barn looking just like the building we all see there now. When I saw the place this past summer I observed that at least the owners managed to build drainage runs around there. I remember the low lying lands as being flooded in a minor rain.
Since the Parrish Board saw fit to move out of the village I see ...more
By summertime (589), summerfield fl on Mar 29, 14 3:57 PM
The building won an international architecture award- but it doesn't do it for me. I don't hate it, but I'm not in love with it either.
By LocalEnthusiast (23), East Quogue on Apr 1, 14 10:53 AM