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.”

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(5) comments

Voice of Truth

Perhaps the CIty should consider spending/funding these types of cultural benefits for the community vs. buying an under performing casino with tax dollars. This is a business government should be in...not gaming.

saveiowahistory

Providing funding for the museums in our state (in our country for that matter) is a huge dilemma. Most museums use a mix of earned revenue, donations, grants and if they are lucky, income from an endowment--but that is harder and harder to do in the current financial climate. The public expects high quality exhibits and programs that change often. But as 1of3 points out, the average visitor can't afford to visit these places often, if at all. Many quality of life venues in a city are supported and subsidized by tax dollars: swimming pools, parks, bike trails, sometimes golf courses and art museums. Should they all be stricken from city budgets everywhere and left to generate revenue in other ways? Some would say yes. But then we would lose so many of the things that make our lives richer and help us explain the world to our children and grandchildren.
Something needs to change. We need to look at a big picture solution before we lose these valuable community assets. Vision Iowa and CAT helped build these things--we need to work together to find a way to keep them vibrant and available to all Iowans.
The BRAVO model is a start--but it is not the solution. The problem is much bigger than a few thousand dollars of hotel/motel tax. We must challenge our elected officals on all levels to be part of solving this wide-spread problem.

Beaker

And THIS is why you should not feed the bears.

riverdog

As a person who lives in the neighborhood of the Putnam Museum I have noticed the huge dumpster overflowing and overflowing again over the last few months with storage containers, partitions, display materials (wooden and otherwise) and all kinds of museum operational items in perfectly good condition. It is a spending problem.

1of3

Maybe if they would lower their ticket prices so that more families could afford to come they would make more money in the long run and would'nt be asking for tax dollars to fund them. Im sorry but I think the City should refuse to give them any funding unless they make it so that more families in the community can afford to go.

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