April 2007 Bay View Compass Editorial
Dear Bay View Compass Readers,
The future of our world-renowned Milwaukee Public Museum is in jeopardy. As you may know, Milwaukee County owns the land, the building, and all artifacts in the Milwaukee Public Museum. The Museum is operated, however by a private, non-profit board. In 2005, Milwaukee County was notified of the major fiscal problem the museum was having under this private leadership. As a result, Milwaukee County stepped up and guaranteed a $6 million loan to the museum, in addition to the annual budget support of $3.3 million. Also, there was an Audit done by Milwaukee County, the union employees gave up over $3 million in wages and benefits, and a Museum Recovery Committee and Oversight Committee were comprised to negotiate a financial recovery plan and oversee the $6 million loan respectively. Since then, the former Chief Financial Officer has been criminally charged by the Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office and this case is pending.
Due to lower than expected attendance, fundraising, and various other obligations the museum is once again at a critical point and forced to make some tough financial decisions. One option that is being considered, that most would like to avoid is bankruptcy. This option could result in a major reorganization and a possible Milwaukee County takeover to avoid closing the doors for good. The museum is unable to pay its debt and is working with Milwaukee County on a comprehensive plan which includes a slightly higher county budget commitment, a new fundraising plan, and lastly a debt restructuring with the banks to reduce the interest and loan payments.
In my opinion, this is a clear example of a privatization effort that went bad. There was a lack of accountability to the taxpayers by the private firm who was supposed to be managing the public museum. We are now left with some difficult policy decisions and I want to assure the residents of the 4th District that my goal is to gain financial stability for the Milwaukee Public Museum in order to preserve this cultural institution and educational resource for future generations to enjoy.
Supervisor Marina Dimitrijevic
MILWAUKEE COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS
Courthouse Room 201, 901 North 9th Street, Milwaukee, WI 53233
PHONE: 414-278-4232 FAX: 414-223-1380