Archive for Thursday, August 6, 2009

County museum to stay open; takes 75 percent budget cut

August 6, 2009

It took some negotiations, but the Wyandotte County Museum in Bonner Springs will not be closing its doors for good.

After a preliminary 2010 budget proposal from the Unified Government of Wyandotte County/ Kansas City, Kan., called for the purpose of discussing whether the museum should close to save money, the organization has been given a second chance, but not without some major cuts.

The museum’s budget was slashed 75 percent, going from a yearly budget of $300,000 to a yearly budget of $75,000-$80,000.

“They cut the museum way, way, way down,” said Roger Miller, president of the museum board. “We’re not happy about that.”

Following the proposal, it was suggested that representatives for the museum and three county commissioners meet to find a way to keep the museum open while still saving the county money.

“We told them what we needed and they said they’re still only going to give us a $75,000 to $80,000 budget,” Miller said. “We can’t do much with that. It ain’t going to close (the museum) down, but it wont operate like it should. They think they’re saving us, but they’re not. They’re just letting us cripple along.”

While specifics haven’t been worked out how the new budget will be spent, the museum has until 2010 to continue operating with its current budget as usual. Miller said in 2010, he expects the museum to be open three days a week and all school visits will be eliminated. Tours will also be cut back.

As for employees, Miller said current museum director Patricia Schurkamp would work in the museum when it was open, and then work in the County Appraiser’s Office the rest of the time.

“What somebody with a master’s degree in history and with museum training will do in the appraiser’s office, I don’t know,” Miller said. “She’s done all this training and it’s too bad we can’t utilize her fully.”

While Miller said the funding cut was disappointing, the museum’s only choice is to keep providing a service to the county the best it can.

“They asked every other department to cut 10 percent and then they cut us 75 percent,” Miller said. “We thought at least $150,000 would keep us going. But somebody in their wisdom didn’t think so.”

District 7, which includes Bonner Springs commissioner Tom Cooley, said preparing a budget is a challenge every year. He said a budget is set months before the year begins, which always leaves room for surprises.

“Obviously this time of the year last year, no one had any idea we’d have the budget problems we do,” Cooley said. “We didn’t realize we’d be asking employees to give up 15 days of pay or cutting funding.”

He said this time next year could be a different story and the museum could find itself in a more favorable situation. While no one knows exactly where the economy is headed, Cooley said one thing is certain: The county is committed to maintaining a viable museum.

“We are all interested in maintaining a degree of quality,” he said. “The museum will continue working with the UG to make sure things work out.”

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