Olmsted County’s History Center faces a potential budget cut

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“If we don’t do it now, it is in danger of being lost and we will lose a potential program in the future,” said History Center executive director Wayne Gannaway of the 1856 homestead renovation that is on the area of ​​the center in 1195 West is the SW district.

Design and construction documents are being prepared, and the center is awaiting potential government funding of $ 237,000, with approximately $ 100,000 in local reserves to support the first year of renovation.

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Gannaway said that completing the project will require a large amount of fundraising in the years to come, with current efforts needing to be stepped up.

At the same time, the Olmsted County Commissioners discussed reducing the annual contribution to running the history center.

This year’s budget cut $ 50,000 from the amount backed by the county property tax but took the same amount from the county reserves.

District Administrator Heidi Welsch said the employees of the history center and the board of directors had been informed that the reduced approval of the tax levy was permanent and that the use of reserves was seen as a one-off measure to support the transition.

“This really shouldn’t come as a big surprise to the history center,” she said of plans to cut the county’s annual contribution from $ 289,515 to $ 239,515.

Gannaway said it came as a surprise as he believed the taxpayers money change was a one-time adjustment amid COVID cuts that helped keep the county’s tax levy constant for the year.

He said the $ 50,000 represented one-tenth of the organization’s total revenue in 2021.

The proposed cut, he added, could result in a cut in one of his six full-time or two part-time employees, which would lead to other likely changes.

“It is almost certain, but not guaranteed, that we will have to reduce our operating hours to reflect the change in staff,” he said. “This is really because the staff won’t have time to catalog, maintain and preserve archives, give the public access and service customers regularly like we do now.”

He said membership dues and other fees would likely need to be increased as well.

In 2020, the center’s total revenue was $ 608,595, up from $ 704,417 in 2019, according to the latest annual report.

While the organization received $ 156,000 in federal paycheck protection program forgivable loans and $ 20,000 in federally funded county nonprofit support, Gannaway said that Mayowood lost approximately $ 151,000 in revenue for the year due to the Mayowood closure went.

“The PPP covered some of Mayowood’s lost revenue, but we were also closed ourselves with the lockdowns, so we had significant other activities that have been the order of the day for the past year and a half,” said Christine Rule, president of the History Center Board .

Mayowood tours resumed September 1, but Gannaway said the future remains uncertain, indicating the need for restored funding.

Welsch said the uncertainty also points to the need for additional flexibility in the district’s budget proposal.

“We have many agencies soliciting funds,” she said, noting that the Olmsted County Legal Aid has requested approximately $ 50,000 additional funding to help address growing eviction concerns and the University of’s local office Minnesota Extension is looking for funding to hire a master gardener.

Welsch said the amount of funding the history center receives has been a topic of discussion when developing budgets for years.

“Outside of the library, which we are mandated to fund, the history center receives the highest funding and has always done so,” she said, adding that the county’s commitment to helping other counties do similar operations to the highest heard.

The commissioners will set a cap on property tax until 2022 on Tuesday, which will dictate how much property tax the county can collect and how much it has to help other organizations.

Commissioner Ken Brown, who serves on the history center’s board of directors as the district representative, said the final outcome of the history center’s budget allocations was uncertain due to discussions with its commissioners.

“I support the same assignment, but I’m not sure where the board stands,” he said.

Commissioner Mark Thein, who served on the History Board for two years prior to Brown, said the proposed cut should come as no surprise.

“When I was on the board, I made it clear to them that these are the conversations we are having and they should expect things not to go on at the same level forever,” he said.

Gannaway said such conversations were not viewed as a formal announcement, but Welsch said she believed the message was being broadcast through the right channels, too. Both mentioned the desire to improve communication in the future.

Thein said the commissioners will likely have to make a difficult decision to move forward.

“I appreciate the history center and am a huge fan of the history center, but we have limited resources and unlimited requests,” he said.

HOOTENANNY FUNDRAISER SATURDAY

The Olmsted County’s History Center will hold its Hootenanny at the History Center on the grounds at 1195 West Circle Drive SW on Saturday from 2pm to 7pm.

The bluegrass and country music line-up includes Root River Jam, Luke Hendrikson and the Crop Circles, and Becky Schlegel.

Tickets are $ 20, with a link to purchase online at www.olmstedhistory.com/events.


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