Buffalo, N.Y. (WKBW-TV) - It has been a Buffalo tradition for decades.
" We are the second largest free Shakespeare in the Park in the country-- second only to Central Park in New York City," Says Shakespeare in Delaware Park Founder and Artistic Director Saul Elkin.
But he's worried about it's future.
"This cuts out 25 percent of our budget and it's huge to us," he says.
Shakespeare in Delaware Park one of several Theatre Companies concerned about Erie County Executive Chris Collins' Proposed 2011 budget.
If Collins gets his way, dozens of cultural organizations will not get funding like they have in the past.
Collins plans to continue funding 10 institutions he says are vital tourist attractions.
"What my administration has identified as the 10 significant regional attractions that bring in people from outside of Erie County," Collins said at a news conference Wednesday. (to see list of organizations, see below)
Collins says he's investing in tourism-- to promote Erie County.
He increased funding to the Convention and Visitors Bureau but because he says there could be a $30 million budget shortfall, can't fund "all cultural institutions."
"It's not governments job to do everyone else's job. We are required to have a balanced budget and I am committed to not having an increase in property taxes.
It's time some of these organizations stand on their own without government subsidies," Collins said.
The cuts-- only part of Collins' proposed budget-- which is due to the Legislature Friday.
It's already causing debate-- upsetting not only theatre groups-- but lawmakers as well.
Erie County Legislator Lynn Marinelli, a Democrat, hopes to fight to return the funding.
"They are ALL assets, they help set this community apart and may help to attract business to this county," Marinelli told Eyewitness News.
Last year, the Democrats were able to re-insert cultural funding in the final budget. But this year they don't have as much power.
Democrats lost the supermajority in last year's election-- Republicans gained ground-- which means Collins' budget has a better chance of standing as is.
Collins said he's confident the cultural institutions affected will still survive-- or merge.
"I fully expect-- if not 100 percent --90 percent of these organizations will still be here a year from now,' Collins said.
But folks like Saul are not so sure.
"Whether or not we can go on I think that's a question-- this is devastating, it certainly is."
Organizations that will still receive funding:
Albright-Knox Art Gallery
Buffalo and Erie Co. Historical Society
Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra
Buffalo Museum of Science
Hamburg Natural History Society/Penn Disxie Site
Martin House Restoration
Roosevelt Inaugural Site
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