Thursday, February 2, 2023

Wildfowl museum to protest city budget cut that could force it to ‘reconsider’ staff, operational hours

VIRGINIA BEACH — The Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum plans to protest proposed funding cuts that would shrink its revenue by about $13,000, or 14 percent.

Jeff Tinkham, president of the museum’s board of directors, urged Back Bay Wildfowl Guild members in a Facebook post this week to implore City Council members to remove the cuts from the city’s 2017 spending plan the budget is approved in May. He also asked people to attend two upcoming public hearings on the budget to show public concern about the cuts.

Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum (courtesy of awhm.org)
Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum (courtesy of awhm.org)

The first hearing is 6 p.m. today at Cox High School. The second is 6 p.m. Tuesday in City Council chambers.

The city’s proposed budget, which will guide spending from July 1 through June 30, 2017, calls for the city to give 25 percent less to the Oceanfront wildfowl museum next year. That is the same reduction the city’s historic home museums are facing as they shift toward fewer operating hours in favor of hosting more events throughout the year.

“If this cut goes through, we will be forced to reconsider staff positions and operating hours,” Tinkham wrote on a Facebook post about the cuts.

The waterbird museum is independent of the city but relies on it for nearly half of its funding. It does not charge for admission. Run by two employees, it is open seven days a week during the summer and six the rest of the year.

After Southside Daily first reported concerns about the cuts, which also extended to the Old Coast Guard Station Museum, City Manager Dave Hansen sent a memo to the City Council saying the museum could easily recoup the money by charging a nominal admittance fee.

The museum’s director has said he does not want to force folks to pay to visit.

Councilwoman Barbara Henley said at Tuesday’s Council meeting that the museum had tried charging for admittance before and found less success while doing so. Councilman John Moss compared the museum’s model to car washes that only accept donations but generate more revenue than those that charge.

Henley also expressed opposition to the proposed cuts.

Tinkham wrote that a museum board member will ask the whole City Council to reject the cuts and “to keep the funding at least at its current level” at the upcoming public hearings.

The City Council is set to vote on the budget May 10.

Residents can view the proposed budget here and comment in a virtual town hall here.

Southside Daily’s previous budget coverage:

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