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Media center faces 40 percent cut

The non-profit Evanston Community Media Center would face a 40 percent funding cut if Evanston aldermen adopt the city manager's proposed budget.

The media center last week issued a news release claiming the center would have to close if the budget cuts were imposed.

The non-profit Evanston Community Media Center would face a 40 percent funding cut if Evanston aldermen adopt the city manager's proposed budget.

The media center last week issued a news release claiming the center would have to close if the budget cuts were imposed.

But in an interview Monday with Evanston Now, ECMC Executive Director Steve Bartlebaugh said the group has an annual budget of slightly over a half million dollars.

The city manager is recommending reducing the city subsidy to the group from $348,000 to $148,000.

In addition to the money from the city, ECMC receives about $80,000 each year directly from Comcast as part of the cable franchise agreement negotiated with the city nearly a decade ago. That money is designated for new equipment purchases.

ECMC also receives about $30,000 from School District 65 to run the district's educational access cable channel 19, and it receives smaller amounts from subleasing some of its rented office space, from production fees, classes, memberships and fundraising.

The city subsidy in part defrays the cost of running the city's government access cable channel 16, but most of the money goes to provide facilities for the public access programming on channel 6.

Bartlebaugh says the media center has about 100 volunteer members who on average produce over 25 hours of new programming a month. He says a core group of 20 to 50 people produce most of the shows. New shows typically are produced once a month and are rerun throughout the month on the public access channel.

He says the center's leadership hasn't had time yet to develop a plan to figure out what to do if the funding cut does take place.

Under the franchise agreement with Comcast, the city imposes a 5 percent tax or fee on cable bills, which raises about $900,000 a year. The city has traditionally given a portion of that money to ECMC.

But faced with a $9.5 million revenue hole in its $90 million general fund budget for the fiscal year that starts in March, city officials have been looking for ways to trim spending.

Other proposals the City Council will face when it begins budget hearings Saturday morning include closing the city's branch libraries and raising fees for trash collection. The proposed budget calls for eliminating 47 positions from the city's full-time equivalent staff of 840.

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