Tuesday afternoon, board members of the Marietta Museum of History expressed disappointment over a lack of funding and support by the City Council.
The council will vote tonight on the amount of money from hotel/motel and auto rental taxes to give as tourism grants.
The Marietta Museum of History received $128,579 for the 2013 fiscal year and, according to the grant proposal given to the City Council, the museum asked for an increase of $33,000 for 2014.
The Parks, Recreation and Tourism Committee, chaired by Councilman Johnny Sinclair, recommended the organization receive the same $129,000 amount in 2014.
“I can see the potential for us doing so much more. I wish (the City Council) could see the potential as well,” said Jan Galt Russell, the museum’s director of operations.
Councilwoman Annette Lewis said the purpose of the grants is not to fund an organization’s budget, but to help the nonprofits become self-sufficient.
Based on the proposal, the museum’s budget last year was about $290,000. The tourism grant accounted for 44 percent of that budget.
Jeff Fucito from the nonprofit auditing firm Mauldin and Jenkins out of Atlanta presented information Tuesday from an audit of the organization.
Fucito was advising the board, which can have up to 21 members appointed by the City Council for three-year terms, on how to better understand the museum’s finances.
“We are helping them address control,” Fucito said.
Appeal to donors
Dan Cox, the museum’s founder and CEO, said 10 years ago the city told the museum to become self-sustaining, so the board tried to create a reserve fund.
Yet Cox said when the City Council saw the money available in the museum’s account, the organization’s funding was cut, which has resulted in a smaller staff.
Fucito said large donors look at the public financial statements to see how many months of operational costs the organization has in cash, and three months is the norm. He said the museum is just 1.3 months in cash reserves.
The organization does have a trust fund through The Cobb Community Foundation that administers charitable giving to community groups.
The Marietta Museum of History, including the Aviation Wing, has a total of $210,000 in that trust.
Adding these available monies, Fucito said the organization has enough cash to operate for five months.
The board recently approved spending $17,000 from the trust on heating and air-conditioning improvements, and will most likely allocate another $7,000 to move the gift shop to another area in the building, said Russell.
Period of growth
Fucito said large donors also look at a charity’s growth to determine if it is a candidate for investment.
“We have done a lot of growing. It is phenomenal how much (the collection) has increased,” Russell said.
Russell said that, in her time as director, the museum’s attendance has doubled, to 12,230 people in 2012.
Russell said the museum could attract more tourists if given the money for marketing.
She said the museum opened in 1996 on the second floor of the historic Kennesaw House, but now leases the entire third floor for offices and storage, and the first floor for event space.
The building is owned by the Downtown Marietta Development Authority and the museum has a 10-year lease at $15,000 in rent per month.
But, the DMDA waives 75 percent of that cost if the building is used to preserve the history of Marietta and Cobb County, according to the expense report presented by Fucito.
Special Civil War project on tap
The City Council has discussed whether to use the remaining hotel/motel and auto rental tax money not given out as grants for specific events.
It is a plan carried over from last year, which left $37,359 in 2013, and will add another $77,000 in 2014.
Lewis said the remaining money will not be absorbed into the city’s overall budget.
She said the best use of the remaining tourism money is to promote new organizations hosting an event for the first time or allowing existing groups to host a special program.
The majority of the museum’s board members want to ask the City Council for money for the celebration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War.
Russell said the Kennesaw House, which is a block off the Square and faces the railroad tracks, played an extremely important role in the Civil War.
Once the Fletcher House Hotel in 1855, the building became a Civil War hospital and morgue for both the Confederate and Union armies.
Russell said September will mark the 150th anniversary of when the hotel was first converted to take in the wounded.
She said the museum will recreate a Civil War hospital scene as it would have existed in one of the rooms at the time.