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Construction crews are piecing together huge exhibition spaces at the sprawling building set to replace the Yorktown Victory Center, while the museum’s operators are planning a sweeping 2019 celebration of the first meeting of representative government in the New World.
Those initiatives form prominent parts of the Jamestown Yorktown Foundation’s programming in the coming years.
JYF operates the victory center and Jamestown Settlement, and while it is working to bring about those new changes, it must do so with declining state funds for its museum operations and less revenue from ticket and gift shop sales.
JYF’s proposed $15.9 million operating budget for the upcoming fiscal year — which runs from July 1 through June 2016 — contains an additional $1.9 million in state funding, but that must be used to help pay for setting up the Yorktown museum and the 2019 celebration.
The budget also includes about $1.5 million in spending reductions. Ticket sales and gift shop profits have not kept pace with JYF’s spending on programming, necessitating a reduction of about $880,000. The state has also cut $557,629 in public funds that were supposed to go to the museum.
The cuts will primarily be felt in staffing — with longer time frames between hiring new staff members for vacant positions — and reductions to JYF’s educational outreach program, which serves students in classrooms across Virginia.
The state reduction came about because officials in Richmond concluded last fall they were not going to collect the revenue they expected during either the current fiscal year — which runs through June — or the upcoming fiscal year. So Gov. Terry McAuliffe and state legislators shaved the operating budgets of almost all state agencies, including JYF.
That work produced a $367,363 cut in public funds for the current fiscal year and $557,629 for the upcoming fiscal year. JYF’s board of directors is set to approve a budget for the upcoming fiscal year next week.
Upon learning of the cuts, JYF got to work looking for operational savings with an eye on not affecting the guest experience, said Jeff Lunsford, the foundation’s deputy executive director for administration.
“We’re trying to keep it behind the scenes,” he said. “We’re so dependent on people saying they had a great time here to sell tickets, and we want them to come back. We like to get that repeat visitation. We don’t want guests noticing any budget reductions.”
JYF’s board of directors will consider a 25-cent admissions increase to both museums when it meets next week. Admission last rose at the start of this year, when it went up 75 cents to $16.75 for adults at Jamestown Settlement and up 25 cents to $9.75 for children ages 6 through 12. Rates at the Yorktown Victory Center have not changed in several years.
Personnel costs account for 71 percent of JYF’s expenses, so 24 positions have been left unfilled for at least a couple of months since the cuts were announced to generate savings. Frontline positions dealing with guests have been hired faster, while back-of-the-house operations have been left unfilled for up to six months.
Those 24 positions were empty due to turnover. A graphic designer who worked full time for JYF was laid off to generate additional savings. Prior to his termination, he worked to develop and update graphics attached to museum exhibits.
JYF’s educational outreach programs are also affected. It has canceled its summer teacher’s institute, which has hosted 141 teachers since 2008. That program brings in teachers to the two museums and lets them put on costumes, gain access to educational materials and learn what it is like to work in interpretive areas — the parts of the museums with the costumed interpreters.
The museums will cut back on video production used in educational outreach to save more money. During the 2013-14 school year, JYF brought 197,853 students to the two museums, while the outreach programs available for teachers to use in schools served 88,266 students in 105 of Virginia’s school districts.
To deal with the cuts, the outreach education goal has been reduced to 70,000 students across Virginia.