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Safety Harbor may cut museum funds

Over the past few years the city has handed thousands of dollars at a time to the Safety Harbor Museum of Regional History.

But like some of the museum's artifacts, that practice might be a thing of the past.

At a commission work session Monday, city leaders broke the news to museum officials that only $7,500 may be available to help out with the organization's budget next year.

Just last year the city kicked in $40,000 for the museum.

"Over the past two to three years we've given a substantial amount of money to the museum," Vice Mayor Keith Zayac said. "The budget is out and I think we want to hold on to our tax dollars _ so we need to make some hard decisions."

Last summer, the museum experienced problems when its former director reported the facility was in financial trouble and needed help. This prompted the museum to ask the city for $40,000 _ 40 percent of its operating budget _ to keep the museum's doors open.

Concerned about the possibility that money was misused, the city postponed the museum's request for money and called for an audit.

In September, the results of the audit showed no problems with the way the organization had handled money in the past year, clearing the way for the city to grant the museum $40,000 to help with operating costs.

Now, with the possibility of a cutback looming, the question of how long the museum can survive comes into play _ especially because officials there say they now have just enough surplus money to run the facility for one more year.

"We can operate within the limits the city gives us," said Harry Rabb, treasurer for the museum's board of trustees. "It can be done _ it can't be done long-term, but it can be done."

But it's still early.

"I think that is a low figure," Mayor Pam Corbino said of the $7,500. "In spite of the fact that we gave them $40,000 last year, I do see an effort in turning around things concerning revenue."

Rabb and museum director Robin Bajkiewicz presented commissioners with an overview of the museum's financial activity. The presentation included reports of success in fundraising and securing grant money.

However, revenue is expected to come in about $16,000 less than the $98,000 they previously projected to bring in _ $40,000 of that revenue came from the city.

Whether or not the city will be as generous this time around remains to be seen at budget workshops scheduled for July 15-16, when the matter will be formally considered.

_ Leon M. Tucker can be reached at 445-4167 or tuckersptimes.com.

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