WINNERS — DeLand Outdoor Art Festival Youth Art Show winners Salah Carr, Destiny Carr, Olivia Sarro, and Sarah Noyes smile for a photo with their awards. BEACON PHOTO/MARSHA MCLAUGHLIN

The arts enrich all of our lives

To the members of the Volusia County Council:

This letter concerns the County Council’s evaluation and proposed cutting of the $611,789 funding for county arts and culture grants that has, in past years, been dedicated to the support and furthering of Volusia’s cultural endeavors for the benefit of our residents.

I am writing to all members of the County Council as the former Volusia County Schools art specialist working with nearly 100 art teachers 2001-2016 while collaborating with Volusia’s cultural entities. Over the years, I have met with the leaders of all art-focused organizations to see how best we could collaborate for the benefit of students.

When I began as county art specialist, I was able to supplement middle- and high-school art teachers’ budgets with the $90,000 in art consumables the School Board had allocated for these art teachers. As the years went on, I received less and less funding, and the art teachers had more and more challenges in providing experiences for art student growth with quality materials, especially for advanced students. When I retired, my budget for these same 40-plus art teachers had dropped to less than $20,000. The number of teachers and students didn’t drop. Our Volusia arts community filled in some of those gaps with support.

What could be more important than building a student’s self-esteem when an art project is completed, especially now when social media does so much to destroy self-worth? The community celebrates our young people as they are growing and learning and valuing the world around them, leading many of these students to settle down here where they grew up because of what Volusia has to offer.

I ask each of you the following questions…

— Do you stream movies?

— Do you listen to music on Sirius XM in your car?

— Have you ever danced or waltzed with your wife or significant other?

— Have you bought a beautiful or funny birthday card for that wife or significant other?

If so, then you appreciate aesthetics and enjoy the arts as an adult! How did you come by doing this? Who along the way taught you and provided you with arts opportunities? Do you really want to rob your children or grandchildren or yourselves of such arts opportunities and enjoyment?

When people look back at histories, it’s not just the rulers, wars and politics that are studied, it’s the culture of a society and the arts, in particular … how those people lived and what was important to them.

So, by cutting this grant funding, the council is saying that culture in Volusia doesn’t matter and is not important. Have you not considered the consequences of such cuts? How will the school system, all the arts included, and Volusia residents be able to continue to enjoy the richness of what this county has to offer when there is less funding? Seems to me, the $2 per my household equates to .06% of my property taxes. Such a small amount can reap benefits for all.

I passionately ask that all council members consider the bigger picture, not simply deciding that those grant funds should go to some other project for whatever reason. Our students and our community’s health depend on your guidance for every resident who values living in Volusia.

When companies pick communities for new relocation, they look at the school system and the cultural offerings for their employees. I ardently hope that Volusia will continue to be a good relocation area because the arts and culture are important to those who govern.

Suzi Preston

New Smyrna Beach

Preston is a retired arts educator who began teaching art in Volusia County public elementary schools in 1980 and later taught advanced art courses at Mainland and Atlantic high schools. From 2001, she served as the district art teacher on assignment and the Volusia County Schools performing and visual arts curriculum specialist 2003-05, then continued as the district visual arts curriculum specialist until retirement in 2016. Since then, she has lived quietly in the woods of New Smyrna Beach with her husband and two cats, where she enjoys gardening, drawing, painting and traveling.



  1. End the County tax dollar giveaways…..

    Our County Council needs to stop making our charitable giving decisions for us. ALL of the County tax dollar giveaways need to be ended. Every group begging for our money has a cause and a story, however, none of those causes or stories justifies the forcible taking of someone else’s money in order to give it away to a so-called nonprofit. Let the free market work, if a nonprofit is not valued by the community it should be allowed to no longer exist. We need our County Government doing a better job at taking care of its core responsibilities and that does not include giving our money away to nonprofits. We have over crowded and crumbling roads, infrastructure improvement needs, comp plan mandates to be met, inadequate public transportation options, littered right of ways and waterways, and other environmental issues that need to be addressed. And I must add, we can not keep adding more burdens on our young people who are just starting out here. A young person starting out here, in many cases, will be paying as much as 5 to 10 times more for property taxes compared to what some of us older established folks are paying. There are some who are pushing for more giveaways and higher property tax burdens who literally pay NO property taxes at all because of their special property tax exemptions. Young hard working people here are already facing an affordable housing crisis, taking more from them for giveaways will only harm them worse. And property taxes are just part of the problem, if a young person wishes to build or buy a new home in Volusia County they will also be hit with a government mandated impact fee of over $9,200. And let us not forget young renters pay property taxes through their monthly rental payments and their landlords do not receive property tax deductions like many of us established homeowners who have the benefit of Save Our Homes (limits the annual increase in the assessed value of homesteaded properties to 3% or the change in the National Consumer Price Index (CPI), whichever is less.), homestead exemption, and the other property tax breaks offered.

    The best way to help our hard working young people thrive here is to pay them a livable wage, provide quality core governmental services, and keep their tax burdens low, and as they start to thrive allow them to make their own charitable giving decisions. Our future depends on them and they depend on us to do what is right.

    All of us should all be allowed to give as we can and as we wish to the charities of our choosing and we should not have our money forced from our pockets and given to the charities of another’s choosing for any reason. I call on the members of the Volusia County Council to end all of the County tax dollar giveaways.

    There is nothing noble or kind about going before your government representatives and asking them to take more from your neighbors for what you want especially when you do not know the struggles your neighbor may be facing and it is certainly wrong for someone who pays so little, and in some cases nothing, in property taxes to try and force those who are paying at a much greater rate to pay even more. Give as you can and let others do the same.


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