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Waukesha Finance Committee denies museum's request of $18,000

Constable said money would help during slow summer months

June 10, 2014

The Waukesha County Museum continues to look for other sources of revenue.

However, it appears its request once again will be denied.

Last year, the Waukesha County Board cut the museum's funding in half from the previous year, prompting the museum to lay off staff members and find other cost-saving measures.

With the summer months slow in revenue for the museum, Tom Constable, who is serving as the museum's interim chief executive officer, made a request for $18,000 from the city’s general contingency fund as well as another $7,000 for in-kind contributions for lawn mowing and snow shoveling services by the city. City staff noted the city wouldn't be able to provide these extra services for the museum.

And Constable's request for the $18,000 was voted down by the city's Finance Committee, 4-1, on Tuesday night at City Hall. The request will still go to the Common Council on a "negative recommendation."

Alderman Andy Reiland voted in favor of the museum getting the money.

Alderman Joe Pieper said he didn’t feel it was the taxpayer’s role to help fund the museum.

“For me, there is a difference between what the responsibility is for the community vs. the taxpayer when funding organizations like this,” Pieper said. “For me, it’s more of a community responsibility than a taxpayer responsibility.”

Constable said the money would work as a stopgap before a new executive director is hired. This person's primary goal will be fundraising, Constable said.

The museum’s former CEO Kirsten Lee Villegas resigned last fall, shortly after finding out the county would only give the museum $150,000 for 2014. The county provided the museum $300,000 in 2013.

Former Waukesha County Executive Dan Finley served as the interim CEO for a number of months after Villegas resigned.

Meanwhile, an audit on the museum from July 2012 to June 2013 revealed that there was a decrease in net assets of about $273,000, which creates an "uncertainty about the organization's ability to continue" the audit read.

The losses included about $117,000 from writing off prior years' construction for the new Les Paul exhibit, and $50,000 in unfulfilled pledges.

Given the audit, the county switched the way it gave the museum its funds, from two large payments during the year to monthly payments totaling $12,500.

Constable said he had preliminary talks on Monday with the county on possible funding for next year.

The Waukesha County Board’s Executive Committee will hear a report from the Waukesha County Museum on its financial viability and hear comments on its 2013 financial statements at a meeting, scheduled for Monday, June 16, at the Waukesha County Courthouse.

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