Museum takes big hit in 2012-13 budget

By SHERRI KOLADE
Times-Herald Newspapers

DEARBORN — The Dearborn Historical Museum soon will rely heavily on volunteers to help alleviate its operating costs, saving the museum more than $130,000 for the 2013 fiscal year beginning July 1.

After the City Council adopted the city’s 2012-13 budget May 29, the museum, along with other city entities, will have to trim excess costs to stay in line with the city’s budget.

The city approved the 2012-13 budget of nearly $99.94 million, with expenditures at about $104.6 million. The total fund balance used is about $4.63 million.

During the budget adoption, council members approved the elimination of the chief curator position, held for the past six years by Kirt Gross, after he was appointed to the position by former Mayor Michael A. Guido.

Other staffing cuts include the elimination of the city planner, a custodian, a building service maintenance mechanic, 19th District Court executive secretary, administrative assistant, a high pressure boiler operator and the Dearborn Hills Golf Course superintendent.

The museum will save $132,561 in budget cuts after eliminating the curator position, among other changes, said city Finance Director Jim O’Connor, who added it originally cost $311,252 to operate the museum.

After the fiscal year, museum operating costs will drop to $178,691.

The city currently contributes $53,822 to the museum’s operating costs. Staffing cuts also include reducing the number of hours in part-time staff by 50 percent.

In lieu of full-time workers, the museum will depend heavily on volunteers working in almost every capacity, Dearborn
Historical Commission Chair David Good, said.

“Volunteers are the lifeblood of many museums around state,” Good said. “It is unfortunate, but we will be in the position as most local history museums around the state, most of which are operated exclusively or almost exclusively by volunteers.”

Good added that most of Dearborn’s museum commission members are concerned that the museum won’t be able to offer the same level of service as before.

“We will just have to see how successful we are in attracting volunteers and putting them to work,” Good said.

Good said about 100 potential volunteers are available for the various museum positions, which can range from answering telephones to keeping house.

Good said the number of volunteers needed for the positions, and which part-time staff positions will be cut, are scheduled for further discussion during the museum commission’s June 4 meeting.

Currently Gross holds the only full-time position at the museum, along with four part-time employees. In the past, the museum had 15 personnel positions, most of which were full time. Good said Gross will retain his position until the end of June.

Position changes and cuts are not scheduled to go into effect until the beginning of the fiscal year.

“We are hoping Kirt will find another job in the city,” Good said. “I don’t know if anybody knows where he is going to land, but we wish him well.”

Museum commissioners hope to raise money with various fundraising avenues, such as through the Museum Guild of Dearborn, a nonprofit organization that consists of more than 20 clubs and organizations that financially support the museum, to make up for city budget cuts, Good said.

A “Moonlight and Magnolias” fundraiser is also slated for 6 to 10 p.m. July 21 at a museum commissioner’s house in Dearborn.

To keep the museum operating, Good said donations are needed now more than ever.

For more information about fundraiser opportunities, volunteering or donating money, contact the Dearborn Historical Museum at 313-565-3000.

(Sherri Kolade can be reached at skolade@bewickpublications.com.)

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