The Festival is asking for $5 million for its Shakespeare Centre project, which would bring a new theatre, practice spaces and shops to the area. The Festival has already raised $18 million, and the request would bring the project near the $26.5 million finish line.
Fred Adams, founder of the Utah Shakespeare Festival, said the proposal “could not be in a better place.”
“We’ve done everything we could possibly do,” he said. “We have met with each member of the committee, they were very generous with their time. We were able to share our vision, highlighting some of our goals.”
In the presentation, Adams will be joined by Scott Phillips, Utah Shakespeare Festival executive director, and SUU President Michael T. Benson, among others. The festival will be one of about 70 other projects vying for a ranking.
“We hope to get a high enough ranking that we will be looked at with some seriousness,” Adams said.
Representative Evan Vickers (R-Dist 72), said the proposal has momentum, and getting the $5 million would get the project moving.
“If we can get that ($5 million), that gives them the money to get over the hump, get their building under construction, and start reaping those benefits of sales tax,” Vickers said.
Senator Casey Anderson (R-Dist 28) said he supports the request, but highlighted the conflict for state dollars.
“This year’s a tough budget year, just like any other year,” he said. “My priority would be to pay down debt … we need to put money back into the rainy day funds, we need to fund education and then once those high priorities get funded then we’ll look at what is left.”
Anderson is pushing a bill to protect organizations like the Frontier Homestead State Park and remove funding for state subsidized golf courses.
“I don’t think (the state) should have baseline budget cuts when you’re dealing with heritage parks that have to do with our history and our education compared to golf courses,” he said.
Anderson is also working to increase signage directing drivers around town and on Interstate 15 to the museum.
The bill has been numbered and Anderson is working with the parks to draft language for the proposal.
A priority of SUU for the legislative session is a one-percent increase in compensation for higher education faculty and staff. In the governor’s proposed budget, a one-percent increase was slated for public education, but not higher education.
Anderson said the governor’s proposed budget needs revision.
“The governor might have left higher ed behind, but as far as the legislature is concerned, I know it’s a priority, and we’ll certainly look at doing all that we can to support our professors in higher education institutions,” he said.
Vickers said he has been talking to legislators about higher ed and this year’s budget surplus.
“I’ve talked to a number of members on that committee, because higher ed is a big deal to me,” he said. “The discussions are kind of weird on the budget this year because the base budget is last year’s budget. So instead of automatically looking for some cuts or things like that, we’re actually looking at going forward with maybe a little bit more money.”
However, Vickers said he’s not sure higher education will get the increase it is seeking.
“The certain appetite on the higher ed committee is to give a one-percent salary increase,” he said. “Whether that translates into the final budget, I’m not sure at this point.”
If a salary increase is approved, it will come through the Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittee budget.
“That’s the way the process works,” Vickers said. “We put together a base budget so that if we get arguing amongst each other can’t come together with a final budget, you at least can go back to the base budget.”
Vickers said his message to SUU is that “you have to let your legislators know what you think.”
“I would encourage them to contact legislators, to let them know they are really wanting support for higher education,” he said.