The Sherman Museum may have to seek additional outside money for 2020 following funding cuts by the city.
The City Council approved $50,000 in funding — down from $70,000 in 2018 — for the Sherman Museum Monday night through the city’s hotel/motel occupancy tax. The museum will be able to receive up to an additional $20,000 from the city only if it is able to provide matching funds.
“This is an opportunity for the community that says they love the museum to get involved and support it,” Assistant City Manager Terrence Steele said.
Under the terms of the funding agreement, the city will pay the museum four, quarterly payments of $12,500 for the next fiscal year. In addition to the dedicated payments, the city will match up to $20,000 in funding that the museum raises outside of the city funds.
The restructuring on the city’s agreement with the museum represents a recent push by the city to encourage the museum to pursue additional community involvement and grant writing, Sherman Community and Support Services Manager Nate Strauch said.
“It has been a priority of the city for about five years now to push the museum to seek funds from from other sources than the city coffers,” Strauch said.
Traditionally, the museum has received about 13 percent of the city’s HOT funding, but Strauch said these funds may not always be available. The funds also go to support the recent renovations to Kidd Key Auditorium, events like Hot Summer Nights and Lights on the Lake, and the city’s tourism office.
Recent attempts to cut the museum’s funding have faced backlash from the community. An attempt by the council to cut funding about four years ago resulted in members of the community speaking against the motion, with the council ultimately agreeing to restore normal funding.
In the years since, Strauch said the council has held back from further cuts out of fear it would “be too damaging” for the museum.
The cuts come during a difficult and expensive time for the museum. Maintenance for its two historic buildings, which include a former Carnegie Library, is proving expensive, museum board chair Dickie Gerig said. The museum also recently lost its new director after just 14 months on the job.
Outside of its normal operations, the museum’s biggest attractions and sources of revenue have historically been its annual Dino Days display during the summer and History Comes Alive in the early fall. However, sponsorships were lower than normal for 2018’s dinosaur display and History Comes Alive was rescheduled for the spring of 2019 following weeks of poor weather in 2018.
In a normal year, the museum typically sees about $14,000 in income outside of its city contribution. If the museum were to have an average year, it would still be down about $6,000 compared to previous years due to the changes in funding.
Gerig said the museum has pursued grant writing in the past, but currently has no one with experience. The former director wrote one grant during her time with the museum before leaving.
If the museum is unable to make up the difference, Gerig said she isn’t sure what it will do. However, supporters will ensure that it will remain open as long as possible.
“We are grateful for the money we get,” she said, noting that she wasn’t opposing the council. “If the museum can’t continue, then it is what it is.”