Making Ends Meet

Merlin Peterson, PCHS Administrator since 1997.

Much of recent news revolves around the economy, responsible business practice and balanced budgets. The Historical Society has not been spared the effects of reduced income from both programming and from charitable gifts. The consistent effort in the last five years has been to reduce expenses to meet the annual budget while advancing the mission of the Society with exciting programs. Project related grant funding has supported recent speaker events and purchased mission related supplies. The challenge has been to keep up with increased demands on staff time and the expense of basic building services.
The current PCHS budget is stripped to the bone. Our accountant, Mark Thompson, commented in a letter to members, “It would be very difficult to make any meaningful cuts here and still provide basic services and maintenance.” Museum director, Merlin Peterson, agrees. “We have seen significant increases in utility and insurance costs without a corresponding increase in income.” Staff salaries have held at 2008 levels.
Especially in the last two years, attention has focused on the income column of the budget with fundraising events and lecture programs. The lecture series has been especially rewarding for the number of people attending. The offer of free summer admission has also been successful. Income from donations has offset the income that would have been generated from admissions. Summer attendance has easily doubled since offering free admission. More people have visited more often staying longer and returning with friends and visitors.
There is a lot of good work happening at the Pope County Museum. Our challenge is to balance the budget at the end of each year. The board of directors has often chosen to borrow against designated funds to meet year end expenses reimbursing
those funds at the beginning of the next year. This year director Peterson proposed several options to the board: Reducing hours for several months, closing the museum for six weeks, or temporary staff layoffs. With consistent, reliable hours of operation being a priority, it didn’t take long to recognize that the third option was the most workable. Peterson volunteered to take a three month’s lay-off / leave of absence. This represents a budget savings of $5000. The board of directors approved the lay-off at its September meeting. Administrative duties will be handled by the board of directors until he returns in January.
The board recognizes the strong leadership Peterson has given to PCHS and to the community and looks forward to his return in the new fiscal year. Peterson has served as PCHS administrator since 1997, and redesigned much of the museum gallery in 1992.

About popecountymuseum

This blog is primarily written by Ann Grandy, Assistant Curator.
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