Museum seeks new revenue, prepares for funding cuts as Moffat County works to balance budget
- 47 percent from Moffat County
- 17 percent from elsewhere in Colorado
- 33.5 percent travel from out of state
- 2.5 percent travel from outside of the United States
CRAIG — Moffat County is expected to adopt a preliminary budget Oct. 10 that will attempt to trim about $2.5 million in expenses to the general fund during the coming year, and all county departments have been directed to reduce their budgets and/or find ways to raise revenue.
“The goal of the commission, with the help of the department heads and elected officials, is to develop a long term financial plan using a priority based budgeting tool to help us get there,” said Moffat County Commissioner and liaison to the museum board, Ray Beck.
As part of the process, the Museum of Northwest Colorado is preparing for a proposed 47-percent decrease in revenues from the county general fund — from about $214,000 to about $114,000 — in 2018.
“The goal for 2018, will help the museum become self-sustaining by 2020,” Beck said.
In response, the museum immediately cut $34,000 in expenses — display and exhibit production costs, advertising, off-site storage, elimination of legal work and advertising for the mineral program — leaving a projected annual deficit of more than $82,000.
“It’s not just about cuts. We’ve directed departments to look for new sources of revenue and see if we can offset some of those cuts that need to be made,” Beck said.
The museum recently sought and received from the Local Marketing District Board more than $7,500 per year for 2018 and 2019 to add back into the budget, which will fund three existing billboards and cover the costs to display and distribute brochures in Steamboat Springs.
“Due to large attendance and subsequent referrals, the museum has become a significant economic driver for both Craig and Moffat County,” said Assistant Museum Director Paul Knowles in his presentation to the LMD board.
He shared that TripAdvisor lists the museum as the number-one thing to do in Craig; it has been named one of six “Top Original Colorado Museums” by the Colorado Tourism Office and was named the “Museum to Watch” by True West Magazine.
The reputation of the museum will be leveraged to help achieve the new focus of significantly increasing museum revenues, and the museum will redirect the use of money from its mineral fund to maintain current staffing and hours.
The mineral fund, a program established in 1998, uses revenue raised from the lease of and royalties produced through the development of mineral interests donated to the museum.
In the past, the fund has been used for capitol expenditures to improve the facility, exhibit space and exhibits.
“The museum board felt it was important to keep staff to allow capacity to generate additional revenue,” said Museum Director Dan Davidson.
He estimates the mineral fund could back-fill the budget for about three years before it is depleted.
“It’s going to be difficult. It’s still proposed. It’s not reality at this stage of the game. If that budget becomes a reality, then we become far less than what we are,” Davidson said.
The museum board has proposed implementing the following additional actions in 2018.
• Direct staff to research grant and other funding opportunities.
• Significantly increase attention to gift shop sales, annual sponsorships and walk-in donations.
• Research the impacts of charging admission.
• Begin offering sponsored exhibits.
• Determine the true costs and benefits of traveling exhibits.
• Begin the implementation of a planned-giving program.
At the end of 2018, the board will evaluate the new financial picture of both the museum and county, then, if necessary, research a restructure with sales tax or mill levy and/or consider selling certain high-dollar, low-impact artifacts.
“We are not talking about selling anything that was donated by somebody,” Davidson said.
Instead, the museum may sell duplicates, prints or other items, such as 100-year-old photographs that are extraneous to the main collection.
“They have approached this with a positive attitude. We can’t get where we need to go without teamwork. They have certainly stepped up. It’s about working together, looking for other sources of revenue,” Beck said.
To meet the challenge ahead, the museum is banking on its reputation and support from the community.
“The museum is going to be proactive in getting into the community to let them know what we do and to be better at doing that,” Davidson said.
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.