COLUMBIA - Columbia dropped the budget ax on Columbia Access Television (CAT) this year.
On the 2015 budget, CAT received $100,000 from the city. The money is a significant amount, and it usually goes toward subsidizing membership fees, but that $100,000 is actually a 50-percent cut.
Last year CAT received up to $200,000, the amount the city usually agrees to give annually. CAT executive director Jennifer Erickson said the first $100,000 was granted when the budget went into effect, and the second $100,000 would be matched $2.00 for every $1.00 donated to the station. At this point, CAT thinks they maxed it out just in time for the end of their fiscal year.
"I've invoiced a bunch of groups, and if all the invoices come in we will have made the match," Erickson said. "So, yeah, I am really proud of staff and the community for helping us in that regard."
It seems that step was part of a plan to reduce funding and increase CAT's sustainability. This year the non-profit was not offered that second $100,000 match. Instead, it will have to keep afloat using community donations and membership fees, especially since they started this year "zeroed out," Erickson said.
But, this 50-percent cut affects more people than CAT. It also has an impact on the students throughout Columbia. Erickson said CAT serves as a way for students to connect with the community members who live here full time.
"CAT allows for a bridge to be built between the college community and the people that live here all throughout the year, so I look forward to what can be produced along those lines," Erickson said.
She can especially look forward to the production that will be done on their new editing equipment.
"Luckily we bought recently new iMac computers for our edit suite," Erickson said. "So we're are the top of the line in that regard."
The issue of funding CAT is not new. It is on the budget almost every year. But almost every year, there remains debate as to whether or not the funding is necessary. Last year Mayor Bob McDavid compared CAT's annual $200,000 to the funding for two new police officers.
The city is still understaffed in that area. But this year, the budget also includes infrastructure improvements throughout the city, parking permit changes, parking ticket fee increases, and a decrease in the number of trash bag vouchers distributed.
One Stephen's College student agreed the budget money for CAT is important, "I'm an actress, so I'm all for supporting the arts and films and stuff, so definitely" Zandra Turner said.
Erickson said other students work at CAT for work study employment. She explained that even though students from other universities may have access to equipment for class, if they worked with CAT those students could have access whenever they wanted, even outside of class. She explained that CAT works to serve the community and act as a way to bring all different types of people together.
"We have here, also, a community of people who are interested in video production and reaching out to the public and sharing their voice," Erickson said. "So even if you do take a class at MU and have access to wonderful cameras, you can still come in here and have access to our computer suite and meet people who could potentially crew for you and work with you on any production you might have."
Even though they were cut short this year, Erickson believes they have spent a significant amount of effort to become sustainable on their own, so as of now she said they will work their hardest to make sure these budget cuts do not affect their community members.