Davenport aldermen challenged city staff to find $350,000 for the Putnam Museum after representatives from the venue made the unbudgeted request Saturday.
The city gave the museum $150,000 last year to help with operations, but this year museum Director Kim Findlay and board President Dana Waterman sought $100,000 for its hands-on science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, learning center and $250,000 for operations.
Waterman pointed out that while the museum has seen a number of successes in recent years, funding remains a challenge. He and Findlay said the Putnam is running as lean as possible and many museums receive public funding.
“We don’t have the support like other museums across the country,” he said.
As ideas were tossed around at the city council’s budget work session, Alderman Jeff Justin, 6th Ward, proposed that department heads cut an addition half-percent from their budgets, which brought grumbling.
“Is it a city amenity?” Justin said of the museum.
City Administrator Craig Malin pointed out that a $950,000 shortfall in the fiscal year 2015 budget looms. The city’s number of full-time employees has dropped from more than 820 in fiscal year 2009 to about 780 in fiscal year 2012, while funding requests from outside agencies have risen from $1.6 million to about $2.1 million in that same time.
“We have been stretching cash and stretching cash,” he said. “The city is at a stage where these decisions require service level changes, and previous councils haven’t been willing to do that.”
Aldermen pointed to increased revenue in the hotel-motel tax fund that might be an option, especially if the city levels off funding to the Quad-Cities Convention & Visitors Bureau.
“There’s got to be a way we can give them some money,” Alderman Mike Matson, 8th Ward, said.
Visitors Bureau President Joe Taylor, who also spoke to the council Saturday, resisted that notion, saying that as more people visit the area, more staff and resources are needed by his agency.
“We may not have the answer today, but let’s work something out,” Alderman Gene Meeker, At Large, said.
Alderman Bill Edmond, 2nd Ward, suggested the STEM project request be funded through capital improvement bonds.
Mayor Bill Gluba challenged Findlay and Waterman to take their concern to other cities in the region, too, in hopes of gaining more support.
An idea floated last year by Waterman and Findlay involves a cultural funding model used in the Des Moines area, where 13 communities across three counties pool part of their hotel-motel taxes. Bravo Greater Des Moines distributes the money through grants.
“We have made efforts to do that,” Waterman said. “We’d love to see a Bravo model emerge in this community.”