Waukesha County Finance Committee recommends $47,000 for the museum

Chris Kuhagen
The Finance Committee recommended to add $47,000 to its portion of the 2014 county budget for the Waukesha County Museum, which is housed inside the old Waukesha County Courthouse.
Published on: 11/13/2013

Duane Paulson has made his concerns known that if the Waukesha County Museum left its current residence inside the old Waukesha County Courthouse than the building would no longer exist.

That's why, in part, the Waukesha County board supervisor asked for the county to give the museum more than the $150,000 that was originally proposed in the 2014 executive budget.

It was a positive development for Paulson after the Finance Committee voted 4-3 last week to recommend a $47,000 amendment to Waukesha County Executive Dan Vrakas' budget for museum funding. If approved by the Waukesha County Board earlier this week, the county's total funding for the museum would increase to $197,000. That meeting was held after press deadline.

The additional money from the county would also mean a separate $50,000 grant from an anonymous donor will be given to the museum.

While it was a challenge grant based on county giving $50,000, Paulson believes the donor will still give its portion.

Paulson's proposal was decreased by $3,000 so the county could stay under the levy cap.

"It was never my intent to go over the cap," Paulson said. "I thought we had room, but it just came in that the $50,000 would have pushed it above the cap."

Two months ago, Vrakas' proposed budget cut the museum's funding from $300,000 to $150,000. Former Museum Chief Executive Officer Kirsten Lee Villegas had previously pleaded with the Waukesha County Board to not decrease its funding for 2014.

Interim Chief Executive Officer Dan Finley has expressed similar concerns about a lack of funding and said the museum needs county support to survive.

"The county should give more," Finley said in a recent interview. "It's rare that a museum doesn't get local government support. There's no question this place can't make it without public funding."

While the additional money from the county and donor helps, it would still leave the museum about $50,000 short of what it received from the county this year. Finley said the museum would raise this money and it wouldn't accept the county's additional money until it can raise its portion.

"We would all do a share to make up that loss and it protects the county," Finley said.

Waukesha County Museum Board Chairman Tom Constable also said museum officials have no intentions of leaving the old courthouse building after the board of directors approved a motion last week to remain there.

"There's been a lot of discussion on the museum and make no mistake I'm concerned about the building and with the building comes the museum," Paulson said. "The museum is the building and I want to preserve the building. I haven't lobbied for it, but I've just gone forward with this because I felt it was important."

While Paulson isn't sure how the county board will vote on the funding item and with it barely getting enough votes to get past the Finance Committee, he remained hopeful last week.

"I wish it would have been 7-0, but it is a step in the right direction," Paulson said.