Originally created 09/05/97

Museum has eye on hotel tax



Augusta-Richmond County Museum officials will seek a share of a proposed hotel-motel tax increase if the city cannot honor a request for $500,000 next year to pay for museum operations.

Museum board members reviewed next year's $659,300 budget Thursday with Executive Director Scott Loehr, who said the museum must have city funding at last year's level or seek money from the proposed penny accommodations tax.

Museum trustees are expected to vote on the 1998 budget next month.

Augusta city officials, meanwhile, have asked all government departments to cut their 1998 budgets by 5 percent in the wake of a projected $9.3 million shortfall next year.

The city postponed action on the 1-cent hotel-motel tax increase last month, but negotiations are still going on. The city gave $500,000 to the museum this year.

City government money represents 68 percent of the museum's proposed 1998 operating budget - a decrease of 8.5 percent from this year, according to Mr. Loehr.

Operating expenses have increased because of the new, larger museum building and "a healthy increase in the personnel category," Mr. Loehr said. Program income for the museum has increased as well, though, said board Chairman Ray Rufo.

Utility bills for the museum at Sixth and Reynolds streets will cost $62,000 next year, Mr. Loehr said.

The increase in salaries and benefits comes from the emphasis on improving human resources at the museum. The museum staff eventually will include 12 or 13 full-time employees, Mr. Loehr said.

Savannah gives $532,000 to the Coastal Heritage Society in that city, which represents about 60 percent of the operating budget. The Muscogee County Board of Education in Columbus, Ga., spends $900,000 on the Columbus Museum of Art-History. And the city of Macon donates $500,000 a year to its Museum of Arts and Sciences, according to a report prepared by the Augusta museum.