Milford Beacon
  • Loss of major donor leaves Milford Museum on uncertain ground

  • The Milford Museum may not be facing a financial crisis just yet, but without additional donations the museum may be facing serious funding challenges in the future.
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  • The Milford Museum may not be facing a financial crisis just yet, but without additional donations the museum may be facing serious funding challenges in the future.
    Milford Museum Executive Director Claudia Leister said that the passing of Richard Johnson, a man who donated more than $10,000 to the museum annually, has presented a challenge for the museum.
    However, residents and museum supporters shouldn’t be worried about the museum closing its doors in the immediate future.
    “[I’m] not in any chance of losing my job,” Leister said. “We can still operate without a problem for the next year or so.”
    Johnson’s funding provided a large portion of the hourly salary for the executive director position, which is only one of two paid staff positions at the museum.
    In an effort to fill that fundraising gap, the Milford Museum requested additional funding from the city this spring. The request was reviewed during the city’s budget hearings in June, but was not approved. The city has budgeted $26,000 as a yearly donation to the museum for each of the last three years, but Mayor Bryan Shupe and council members said the city could not support the museum’s requested increase, which would bring the yearly donation to $42,000.
    The $26,000 donation, which includes a $4,500-increase that began in Fiscal Year 2012, was approved as part of the council’s Fiscal Year 2015 budget approval during a council meeting on June 23. With the exception of the last two years, the city has increased its donation to the Milford Museum by about $3,000 per year since Fiscal Year 2010, according to city officials.
    Even though the city initially denied the request for additional funds, Shupe said the city would do what it can to help the museum if funds are found later in the year.
    “If you don’t ask, the answer is always no,” Leister said.
    Even though she said there isn’t an immediate threat of job or program losses, she added that the museum is in need of additional funds for long-term stability.
    The Milford Museum operates on a yearly budget of about $28,500, not including the executive director’s $32,000 annual salary, according to Dave Kenton, the vice president of the museum’s board of commissioners and chairman of its capital fundraising campaign.
    “Our purpose is to ask the city one more time, if we raise $16,000 a year, would you match that?” Kenton said, adding that the board also requested the additional funds in FY2014, but was denied.
    Kenton said the fundraising campaign previously raised $100,000 for three years of guaranteed funds for the executive director position. But by next year, those funds will run out, and the commissioners have raised less than a quarter of the $100,000 needed for the next three years.
    Page 2 of 2 - “We have other businesses and individuals who have pledged a couple thousand dollars a year for the next three years, which keeps us limping along,” Leister said. She explained that the request presented to the city would have reduced the need for the museum committee to solicit for donations.
    “We will go back to the city and ask for the matching funds,” Kenton said. “I think the city will come around and do it. If they agree to matching funds in the spring, we’ll be ok. But if they say no next year, we’re in trouble.”
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