History museum disappointed by lack of funding from Marietta Council
by Rachel Miller
June 12, 2013 12:21 AM | 2901 views | 7 7 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Marietta Museum of History Registrar Christa McCay, left, and Director of Operations Jan Galt Russell look over the museum’s newest exhibit Tuesday afternoon, ‘Beyond Rosie, Women in World War II.’ <br>Staff/Laura Moon
Marietta Museum of History Registrar Christa McCay, left, and Director of Operations Jan Galt Russell look over the museum’s newest exhibit Tuesday afternoon, ‘Beyond Rosie, Women in World War II.’
Staff/Laura Moon

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.


Comments-icon Post a Comment
Begging again.....
June 12, 2013
If an auditor has to be brought in to advise the MMH Board on how to “better understand the museum’s finances and address control”, it’s obviously time to replace the board, museum director, and CEO with competent people capable of managing a budged – why should the City Council subsidize the inefficiency and mismanagement of the MMH?
June 12, 2013
@Begging again.

I totally agree with you...and the same might also be said for Marietta's other "White Elephant": Scarlett On The Square, aka S.O.S! It's about time that both of these museums start paying their own way!
June 12, 2013
Auditors are a requirement of the grant. The terms in the report are specific accounting verbiage, which does not indicate any improper actions. All audits undertake a review of better ways to manage finance, and to improve controls. What a stunning lack of business management you exhibit!
Fix it or end it
June 13, 2013
Evidently "the stunning lack of business management" can be attributed directly to the museum’s director of operations, CEO, and the "up to 21 appointed members" of the MMH board -Perhaps Mike Russell would be available to give them budget advise.
rich history
June 12, 2013
Marietta is rich in Civil War history and should promote it as much as possible. Does anyone think tourists will come to Marietta, for instance, to gaze in awe at the improvements on Franklin Road, or admire the beauty of the Square? Dan Cox has labored for years getting this thing going, residents have been generous in contributing historic items and the city should not begrudge the financial help it needs.
A Taxpayer
June 12, 2013
As much as I love Civil War history and museums, YES the City should definitely begrudge giving financial help to this museum. It is blatantly obvious from every article I have read on the issue in the past two years, that the museum's finances are being mismanaged. Why would you pour more water into a bucket with a hole in it? First fix the hole!
June 12, 2013
How many civil war museums do we need? Every small town in the South has one. Why not try a Batman museum instead? I can't think of even one of those. There MUST be some sort of tie in that could authenticate the presence of a Batman museum. I mean we have bats and "men" here, right?
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