Lack of funds an issue for Marietta Museum of History
by Jon Gillooly
mdjonline.com
March 01, 2011 12:00 AM | 2209 views | 12 12 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
MARIETTA - The Marietta Museum of History is looking to plug about an $80,000 hole in its budget for the coming fiscal year, said Jan Galt Russell, museum executive director.

About half of that shortfall comes from cuts the City Council has made to the annual tourism grant given to the museum. The museum's tourism grant, which comes from hotel/motel tax collections, has fallen from $202,594 in FY2008 to $159,511 in FY2010.

The other half comes from the increased rent the museum now pays its landlord, the Downtown Marietta Development Authority.

In September, then-museum board Chairman Brent Brown signed a triple net lease for the entire 19,298-square-foot Kennesaw House. The lease calls for payment of $3,750 per month, but also holds the museum responsible for all expenses, taxes, insurance and utilities. Prior to signing, the museum only occupied the second and third floors of the antebellum Kennesaw House. Brown's tenure also saw the museum's collection expand with the acquisition of assets of the shuttered Aviation Museum and Discovery Center at the corner of Atlanta Road and South Cobb Drive in Marietta.

Russell is at work on several ideas for how to meet her budget. One is to allow 1,475-square-feet of the first floor to be leased out for weddings, lectures and other events. She hopes to have the space ready for rentals by the end of March. The long-range plan is to bring the museum's gift shop and offices down to the first floor as well, but limited funding prohibits that until renovation money is raised, she said.

Russell is also holding museum fundraisers, with one slated at the Strand Theatre on March 10.

"It would be nice if we could get more funding from the city, but right now I'm a little skeptical that will happen," she said.

She is right to be skeptical.

Councilman Grif Chalfant said the museum's board made a poor decision to enter into the DMDA lease, a decision he said it cannot afford.

"I can't see the city giving them any more money if they're going to spend the money like this," Chalfant said.

Chalfant said he asked the museum to consider allowing the Marietta Gone with the Wind Museum, which is also subsidized by the city, to move into the first floor of Kennesaw House when council was renegotiating the lease for GWTW's home last year.

"They weren't interested," Chalfant said. "I don't know what they're going to do."

For FY 2010, the museum's operating expenses were $298,696, while revenue generated by the museum was only $137,787. The museum was able to plug the difference with $159,511 from hotel/motel tax collections from the city.

The city also pays the salary and benefits of one of the museum's five-member staff, CEO and museum founder Dan Cox, for an expenditure of $60,272.

Mayor Steve Tumlin said besides the tourism grant and funding of Cox's salary, he doesn't see the city providing more funding for the museum.

"To their credit, they chose to expand in a rough market," Tumlin said. "The aviation museum and by taking over the first floor of Kennesaw House, that cost them a pretty good bit of money. They've done the expanding part. Now they've got to do the fundraising part."

It's unclear where Councilman Philip Goldstein stands on the matter of museum funding.

All Goldstein would say Monday was, "I'm aware of the issue."

The museum has a foundation, which is funded by museum memberships - Galt says there are between 550 and 575 current memberships - and donations. The foundation has about $250,000, although some of the donations are earmarked for particular expenditures and cannot be used for operating expenses. Russell said she is considering using some of that foundation money to hire a grant writer.

Russell makes a distinction between the number of paid tickets to attend the museum and the total attendance numbers. Paid tickets don't include free days for visitors, for instance. For fiscal year 2010, there were 6,045 paid tickets and 10,751 visitors total. The year prior it was 5,695 paid tickets or 9,664 total visitors, she said. Ticket prices are $5 for adults and $3 for students and seniors with ages six and under free.
Comments
(12)
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Blame Game
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March 08, 2011
I agree, let there be full disclosure of every venue that receive money from the hotel motel tax – museums, theaters, and the percentage of the tax revenue that is distributed to each location
Just Asking
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March 07, 2011
For "Blame Game"; Yes, I read the article and the countless others that have preceded it....which were all on the same topic. No "vandetta" here. However, I simply fail to understand, along with countless others who live in this city, why our tax dollars are being wasted by propping up a sub-standard S.O.S (Scarlett On Square) museum which, as the facts have proven, inflates their attendance records. How about, in the interest of full disclosure, if the museum's management releases their attendance records for all to see? And, if they won't, the city should do it for them. FYI: S.O.S costs us over $200,000.00 a year, and do you actually believe that it makes that much in return? Again, no "personal vandetta" here, only facts.
Blame Game
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March 07, 2011
"Just Asking" – did you actually read the article, the reduced “budget” is from hotel/motel tax, no visitors/ tourist, no revenue – again if poor management decisions got the History Museum in the “hole” why is it the fault of the City or other venues? You seem to have a personal vendetta against the City and or the GWTW Museum
Just Asking
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March 04, 2011
No really trying to prove anything other than the fact that our city spends 100's of Thousands of Dollars a year renting, repeat renting, a sub-standard collection of S.O.S. (Scarlett On Square)stuff that nobody wants to see. How can anybody dispute their abysmal attendance records? Whereas, the historic memorabilia, housed at the Marietta History Museum, actually belongs (thanks to Dan Cox & Staff) to our city. Case Closed!
Blame Game
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March 04, 2011
Thank you for validating my point, blame your poor choices and business decisions on the success of others – the guilty are the first ones to point fingers
Just Asking
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March 03, 2011
For "Hawaii 5/0: No "failure" here. In my mind, the issue of 100's of Thousands of Dollars of our local tax dollars being wasted in our city far out-shines an occasional misspelt word. To me, you sound like a manager of a failed muuseum trying to defend what remains of their turf and dignity.
Hawaii 5/O
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March 03, 2011
Note to “Just Asking” , Spell-check can’t hide your bitterness of failure, but it can conceal your illiteracy
Just Asking
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March 02, 2011
I would be interested in knwoing just who, amongst our City of Marietta Government, Dan Cox -in addition to the other fine staff at the Marietta History Msueum - may have insulted at one time or another - in order to be treated in such a shoddy, 2nd Class Fashion, by a city government who, in essence, should thank them on a daily basis for what their museum has accomplised in preservving our local history. However, and so true to form, our city manager wastes tens of thousands of dollars each and every year to rent eBay Class memorabilia under the guise of haveing a Gone With The Wind Museum which, as the facts have proven, nobody visits.
MAY-RETTA SURVIVOR
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March 02, 2011
Perhaps if our city took the thousands of dollars they spend/waste each year subsidizing an always visitor free and uninteresting Money Pit (aka GWTW Museum) and use it to support our (local interest) Marietta Museum of History this problem might be solved.
Blame Game
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March 02, 2011
The decision to sign the triple net lease and acquire the Aviation Museum (which is a glorified term for a bunch of mothballed aircraft in a pasture) was made by the History Museum Board and the Director, the finger pointing starts there, not at the City of Marietta. If the History Museum bit off more than it could chew the City isn’t responsible for a “bailout”. Maybe the Museum Director and Board can approach the Federal Government for that. If incompetence and mismanagement got the Museum in an $80,000 “hole” it may be time to replace the people responsible for getting it there, and I’m pretty sure the History Museum has an advertising budget for “promotion” evidently they are misappropriating that money too. “Red-headed stepchild” no, “White Elephant” yes.
heh
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March 01, 2011
The City has always treated the museum as the "red headed step-child." If they would promote the museum as much as they do Gone With the Wind, it would really help tourism. Dan Cox's vision was for a place to house relics from city and county history. Politicians (including some in office now) ask him to promote them and then they forget all about the museum. Most have never darkened the doors. What a shame - they could learn a lot. Maybe it's time for fees to be raised and some help from the city offered. It's a great place to visit.
anonymous
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March 01, 2011
Marietta has got an inordinate amount of greedy and incompetent clowns "appointed" to so called "jobs" and they can never figure out that money grow on trees. They assume money will show up misteriously or they will ask and it will show up. What idots and ding-alings. The lights are on and no one's home. Who put them in positions?
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