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.