Anthony Goss, newly elected president of the Arts Council of Kern, is pleased with news that the California Arts Council is receiving an additional $2 million from the state.

The local council has been struggling to stay afloat financially for the past eight months, so any infusion in state money couldn't come at a better time.

"We certainly are hopeful that it will mean increased funding for us and for other arts councils in the state," Goss said. "It's exciting and encouraging and shows that (the state) is placing a high value on the arts."

But the California Arts Council, which announced the new funds July 15, hasn't said how the money will be distributed or to whom.

"This is a positive first step to gain support for measures that will increase California's arts funding and investment in future budgets," said California Arts Council chairman Wylie Aitken in a media release. "The arts can and should be at the center of helping solve some of the state's most formidable problems."

The additional funding will not be used for administrative costs at the agency, according to the release, but will go to direct services for local communities in California and will be leveraged with other funds.

Meanwhile, Goss reported a key change in how the local arts council will be run. Until now the position of executive director has been full time, but with the June 30 departure of Michael Millar, who led the council for two years, the board has elected to cut the hours to 20 per week.

Goss, a program specialist for the Kern County Superintendent of Schools, has been serving as interim director on an unpaid basis since Millar left.

Goss couldn't say if maintaining a residence in Bakersfield or the county would be one of the requirements for potential applicants, but Millar's decision not to move to the area was a bone of contention to critics.

"We definitely think it's a high priority to hire a person with local connections," he said. "We have a rich pool (of candidates) right here in Kern County."

Getting the council on steady financial footing will be the top priority for the new executive director as well, Goss said. To that end, the board has scheduled at least two fundraisers to help build up the treasury.

One is the $75-per-person dinner being held this evening in honor of Milt and Betty Younger. A separate event in September will be hosted by Tim and Margaret Lemucchi in the spacious gardens surrounding their home on the Kern River. In addition, Margaret Lemucchi is joining Goss on the executive board of the council as vice president. Other officers recently elected to serve this year are CeCe Algra, secretary, and Dr. Joseph Chang, treasurer.