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Guilford Co. manager proposes cutting all arts, cultural funding

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HIGH POINT, N.C -- The North Carolina Shakespeare Festival is in its 35th season of producing world-class theater productions, but the organization got the news they didn't think they would hear on Friday.

Interim Guilford County Manager Brenda Jones Fox is recommending cutting all funding to arts and cultural groups. That means, along with the North Carolina Shakespeare Festival, the United Arts Council, and the Friends of John Coltrane could also lose their funding.

"It really would be devastating not just for the arts organization but the community itself," said Wil Elmore, Shakespeare Festival president.

Elmore said the festival gets $30,000 a year from the county. The money is used for educational programs and the salaries of some of its workers.

"We understand the pressure that the county and the county manager are under to make the budget work. The economy is still not where we want it be, but we also want the commissioners to see our value," Elmore said.

Guilford County's budget for the 2012-13 fiscal year is $601.4 million. County officials say that's a little more than $20 million higher than the budget right now. If the recommendations are approved, Elmore said his organization will increase fundraising efforts, look at their own budget and appeal to donors.

"The arts is something that we just have to have," Elmore said.

Guilford County Commissioners are expected to vote on the budget recommendations, which also include a 4 cent increase in property taxes and cuts to library funding, by the end of June.

Calls to Fox were not returned Friday.