Letter to the Editor: Here's How DIA Millage Would Benefit Rochester Residents

"We hope voters agree that the benefits of passing the millage are worth the relatively small investment."

Dear Editor: 

On behalf of the Detroit Institute of Arts, I am responding to the , which contained some misinformation. We want your readers to know the facts before considering the millage proposal.

The ballot language was drafted by County election officials. The proposal insures compliance with State legislation, which authorizes the establishment of a County art institute authority. This authority can assess and collect a millage that is dedicated exclusively to supporting art services. We want voters to know this is a millage to support operations at the Detroit Institute of Arts, which serves Oakland, Macomb and Wayne counties in numerous ways. Here are just a few of the ways the DIA serves Oakland County:

  • For the past two years the DIA has welcomed all 5th grade students in the Rochester Public Schools for guided tours.
  • 200 schools and more than 12,000 students from Oakland County have toured the museum and created art in our studio during the 2010–2012 school years.
  • In 2012, 3,400 students from 43 Oakland County schools received free admission and transportation to the museum, thanks to a grant the DIA secured from Target Corporation.
  • The DIA spent $2,295,777 with Oakland County vendors for goods and services in the last fiscal year.
  • In 2011 and 2012, the DIA brought reproductions of masterpieces to 13 Oakland County cities as part of its Inside|Out program, and more Oakland County communities are slated for this summer.

As to the writer’s other points:

  • The millage effort is patterned after the Detroit Zoo’s successful August 2008 campaign. While there are fewer major candidates and issues on the August ballot, there is still sufficient voter interest and the smaller ballot allows issues-based campaigns the ability to fully make their case to voters. Less “noise” around the presidential election allows the DIA to communicate more effectively and cost efficiently.
  • The DIA’s financial situation is not due to poor management, but is a result of several factors, mainly the loss of state and city support and the recession that has made fundraising much more difficult. The DIA has been and continues to be fiscally responsible. In addition to balancing the budget every year, the museum’s financials are subjected to annual outside audits and consistently receive the highest rating.
  • In 2009, the DIA reduced its workforce by nearly 20% (more than 60 full- and part-time positions), moved from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan, discontinued its retiree health-care plan, and reduced operating expenses by $8.6 million.
  • The art authorities in each county, whose members are appointed by the commissioners and county executives, will ensure the DIA is using millage revenue only for museum operations and the DIA is required to submit an annual audit.
  • The renovation completed in 2007 cost $158 million, $40 million of which was to remediate asbestos in the building – an unexpected cost. Planning began in 1998, much earlier than the current recession. The project was necessary to repair crumbling infrastructure that was potentially hazardous to visitors.
  • Under a contract with the City of Detroit, the DIA manages the museum. It is required to adhere to standard museum professional practices, which include the stipulation that art cannot be sold to pay for operations; money from the sale of art can only be used to purchase other art.

We hope voters agree that the benefits of passing the millage, which include unlimited free general admission, more programs for students and seniors, and bus subsidies, are worth the relatively small investment of around $10 per year for a home worth $100,000. In addition, the millage will help ensure that the DIA is around for future generations to enjoy.


Graham W. J. Beal, Director, Detroit Institute of Arts

Send letters to the editor to Editor Kristin Bull at kristin.bull@patch.com. Please include a phone number with your letter for confirmation purposes. Letters may be edited for length and clarity.


Carol Jackson June 20, 2012 at 04:03 PM
I am not from Michigan; my husband & I chose to move here in 1994. Although we were put off by Detroit's reputation (people from outside MI don't think in terms of moving to Oakland County; they make a decision about, for example, Dallas vs. Detroit), the cultural gems of Detroit played a role in our picking MI over TX. Like everyone else, we have suffered a loss in our property value. My view is that we can pay a tax outright, to support the DIA, or we can let it go away & then we can see whether our property values rebound...ever. We lived in Miami FL from 1985-7. At that time, there was a great deal of discussion about what cultural amenities Miami would have to develop to become a world class city. Detroit has most of the institutions Miami coveted & has subsequently had to build from scratch. I don't see how it's in our financial interest to be penny wise about this millage & pound foolish about how we are competing with cities nationally for residents. Right now, Detroit has nothing to offer people who want to move here OTHER THAN institutions like the DIA. Do you seriously think we can afford to lose that? If you want a tax cut & you favor entities being able to live on their own, I recommend you speak to your Republican colleagues in national office & ask them to cut the federal water subsidy to sunbelt cities.That would save MI taxpayers money & make our area more attractive nationally.
Daryl Patrishkoff June 20, 2012 at 07:30 PM
Carol, First I do not have any Republican colleagues to talk to, I just want the government to live within their means and stop asking the tax payer for more at $10 per year. The politicians are always justifying the increase that it only cost $10 per house valued at $100,000. Quite frankly they are insulting our intelligence with this approach. This is a tax increase to take care of a special interest group. The DIA can scale back their operations to meet their income and be self sustainable, just because you enjoy the arts does not mean all do, so why should all pay for what a certain group likes? Using this logic we can have anyone come up with an interest they have and say it is important and needs to be funded. Where will it all end? I happen to enjoy and go to the DIA and other such venues, but I am willing to pay my fair share for that service as an entry fee. I do not feel it is fair to ask everyone in the tri county area to pay for what I want to do. How about you?
Georgia June 21, 2012 at 12:58 AM
Amazing! People balk at 10.00 or 20.00 dollars a year to support the DIA but think nothing of dropping much more for a ballgame, lotto tickets or whatever. Being anti tax cannot be something that is across the board without looking at the merit of what a community will recieve for a few dollars. Look at the big picture folks and stop nitpicking! The DIA has pared itself to the bones. It needs help and we need it. If it ends than so does any hope of having a creative, prosperous community where people will want to live. The art that can be viewed at the DIA is a treasure, some of which one could never see without traveling to Europe and other areas. How fortunate we are to have an institute like this so near! Don't loose it. Georgia
Sue June 27, 2012 at 06:32 PM
Here's the list of non-profits that were to be beneficiaries of the 2002 regional arts tax that failed - more will follow if this passes: a. Cranbrook Art Museum., b. Cranbrook Institute of Science., c. Cranbrook House and Gardens.. d. Charles H. Wright Museum of African-American History., e. Center for Creative Studies, for use in Community and Outreach Programs., f. Detroit Historical Museums., g. The Detroit Institute of Arts., h. Detroit Public Television., i. Detroit Science Center., j. Detroit Symphony Orchestra., k. Detroit Zoological Institute., l. Henry Ford Museum/Greenfield Village., m. Holocaust Memorial Center., n. Meadow Brook Hall., o. Meadow Brook Theater., p. Michigan Opera Theatre., q. Music Hall Center for the Performing Arts., r. Any other organization or program that meets the definition and requirements of "Regional Cultural Institution" defined in this Article IX, Section 4 of these Articles provided that the institution is added by a vote of the Council.
Savvy Shopper July 06, 2012 at 12:49 AM
I think it is important to contribute to the DIA as a regional asset. The DIA provides education and culture to all people. It is important to teach our children about the world and it's art at an early age. The city of Detroit contributes to the Huron-Clinton Metroparks Authority, even though there is no Metropark location in Detroit. If $15 is too much to spend per year on a jewel like the DIA for you then maybe you can cut down on your spending at the Hall Road strip mall - which provide very minimal culture and education. The money dedicated to the DIA through this millage would be controlled by a Regional Authority similar to the Metroparks Authority and not controlled by the City of Detroit. Once the facts are presented honestly, I think more people will support this DIA Millage!


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