Science education centers, on average, get about a quarter of their funding from government sources, but this formula has not worked since the Great Recession for Durango Discovery Museum, Executive Director Chris Cable said Tuesday.
As it works on its own budget for 2014, the city of Durango has turned down Discovery’s funding request of $85,000 for operations and $50,000 for capital needs, such as flood mitigation because the museum is so close to the Animas River.
It’s one of numerous cultural organizations the city has not recommended for funding, according to discussion Tuesday at a City Council study session.
The city leases the former power station to the museum for $1 a year, but the museum does not receive any funding from local, state or federal sources, with the exception of a grant from the University of California at Berkeley to improve its educational outreach to Native Americans. Some funding from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency also ended in April.
The museum has proved to be a regional draw for Durango, attracting visitors and student groups from New Mexico, Utah and as far north as Ouray, Cable said.
Durango Film’s $10,000 request for its annual festival also was rejected. Executive Director Joanie Fraughton said the city used to appropriate some money to the festival years ago.
City Manager Ron LeBlanc on Tuesday acknowledged that the city needs to find a revenue source to aid its cultural, artistic and science organizations.
Past proposals to raise the 2 percent lodgers tax as a funding source for museums have died because of opposition from hoteliers.
During its budget process for next year, the city has received more requests than it can afford. The paper pile of requests is thicker than a New York City phone book.
For noncontracted services, such as cultural institutions, the city received $1.01 million worth of aid requests. City staff have suggested funding $230,200 of that, a 2 percent increase from this year.
For contracted services, such as providing funding for the animal shelter operated by the La Plata County Humane Society, the city staff has recommended matching their requested funding at $476,675, a 9 percent increase from this year.
In a separate item, the council was receptive to increasing its appropriation to the Durango Area Tourism Office by $50,000 to $632,000 next year.
The increase comes after a few years of no funding increases while the responsibilities of DATO have grown to managing the new Welcome Center downtown as well as plans to staff a visitors booth next year at the Durango-La Plata County Airport.
The city’s funding for DATO comes from the lodgers tax.
The council also was supportive of spending $20,000 from the lodgers tax fund for a study on consumer spending in downtown Durango, Three Springs and a third commercial area to be named later. The retail analysis would offer advice about what kinds of products and services consumers want.
Roger Zalneraitis, executive director of the La Plata County Economic Development Alliance, said Walmart uses the same kind of data for guidance on how to stock its shelves.