Elected officials from four counties sang the praises of the Wilderness Trace Community Foundation during a press conference Monday to announce a new partnership between the organization and Centre College’s Norton Center for the Arts.
The foundation, which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary, has amassed about $2.9 million in assets from individuals who wanted to make donations that would pay off for various community needs in perpetuity. Since 2002, the group has given out about $733,000, including $135,779 in the current fiscal year, to more than 25 organizations and 30 students.
“We know that foundations can change lives,” said Pete Chiericozzi, foundation board chairman, who helped start the first countywide endowment in the area in Mercer County. One of the newest initiatives the foundation is involved with was fittingly announced Tuesday at the Norton Center.
The foundation is the primary source of funding for the Arts for the Classroom Ticket Subsidy progam — known as ACTS — through the Richard C. Brown Endowment and the Rowland Family Charitable Fund, as well as the Danville and Harrodsburg Rotary clubs. Through the program, students at area schools are able to see matinee performances of arts on the Norton Center schedule at a reduced price.
Norton Center Director Steve Hoffman said the venue began reducing ticket prices last year to try to accommodate the schools, which had many students who couldn’t pay the already reduced $10 and $8 ticket prices. That had become unsustainable, so when Hoffman heard about the community foundation, he set up a meeting with some of the board members.
Through the first two shows of the arts center’s season, Hoffman said 1,500 tickets had been given to 800 students. The ticket prices have been lowered to $2 and in some cases are free.
Hoffman said he got more good news Monday when he found out the arts center received a grant to help with the cost of transporting students to and from performances. He said the award from the state probably wouldn’t have been possible, or even available, if the center had not started its partnership with the foundation.
Also on hand Tuesday were the judge-executives of Boyle, Garrard, Lincoln and Mercer counties, who all said they endorse the idea of establishing endowments that could help relieve the burden on fiscal courts to pay for social programs and institutions that are increasingly difficult to fund.
Until recently, most of the foundation’s monies have gone for scholarships or specific needs within each county. Garrard and Lincoln counties, for instance, have established an endowment for Logan-Hubble Memorial Park, which both counties share responsibility for maintaining.
“Every year, each county seeks to fund the park through our general fund,” said Garrard County Judge-Executive John Wilson. “That ability may not always be present, so what we did was make a small investment today so in the future that funding will always be in place for the park. We know these same needs exist in every county, and that’s why the four of us have recognized the importance of the county endowment.”
Stephen Dexter, a Danville attorney and foundation vice chairman, said advisory committees are being formed for each county.
Boyle Judge-Executive Harold McKinney said he hopes a local foundation will help maintain Constitution Square Park, which the state turned over to the county last year. His Mercer County counterpart, Judge-Executive Milward Dedman, said that county’s funds might go to help fund things like the Ragged Edge Theater in Harrodsburg.
“We know the county can only do so much,” Dedman said.
The countywide concept has caught on quickly in Mercer, where Chiericozzi and his wife Barbara put up $10,000 of their own money and promised to match $5,000 contributions over the next five years. The plan was to begin using interest from endowment — typically 5-7 percent annually — once it reached $100,000.
Dedman said that time is fast approaching, as the fund has grown quickly to about $83,000.
The foundation as a whole primarily has taken large donations from individuals or families, who can get a 20-percent state tax credit against any tax liability.
Through the state’s Endow Kentucky initiative, Dexter said contributions up to $50,000 in a year are eligible for up to $10,000 in tax credits in a single year, with any unused portion of the credit available for up to five years.
McKinney noted statistics from a study on the transfer of wealth from generation to generation that found $400 million would be passed down over the next 10 years in Boyle County alone. If only 5 percent of that were captured, it would make a $20 million endowment capable of yielding $1 million a year in funds for the county.
Organizers also hope people will see the value in making smaller donations. The county foundations will be set up to take contributions as large or small as someone wants to make, Dexter said.
SO YOU KNOW
Anyone who wants more information about the Wilderness Trace Community Foundation, county endowments or the ACTS program should contact Pete Chiericozzi at (859) 325-3869.