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December 21, 2008

Press Release: Martinsville Bulletin

Sunday, December 21, 2008

By BULLETIN STAFF REPORTS -

The Virginia Museum of Natural History faces a fiscal 2010 budget that is nearly $100,000 less than the current year's under funding cuts proposed Wednesday by Gov. Tim Kaine.

However, cost savings from layoffs, reduced hours and other measures the museum implemented in response to October budget reductions should be enough to absorb the additional cuts, museum Executive Director Tim Gette said.

"We took a pretty large hit earlier in the year," he said Friday. "We had anticipated these cuts, and fortunately the reductions we made earlier in the year were enough."

Kaine's proposal places the museum's budget for fiscal 2010, which will start in July 2009, at $2,661,503. The current year budget, or fiscal 2009, stands at $2,756,535 after the reduction two months ago.

This reflects a total cumulative budget reduction of $479,559 over the 2008-10 biennium, according to the governor's budget proposal.

In October, Kaine ordered the museum to reduce its budget by 10 percent, or $314,106. In response, four employees - a curator, receptionist, graphic artist and facilities supervisor - were laid off immediately, and a fifth unfilled position was eliminated.

"You always hate to lose budget money or staff, but unfortunately in economic times like this, it was the only way we could do it," Gette said. "I don't think the governor had any choice."

Other cost savings were realized by closing the museum Sundays and Mondays and on all state holidays. Previously, it was open nearly every day, closing only for Christmas and Thanksgiving.

Starting in January and continuing through the end of the fiscal year June 30, 2009, staff will be on furlough one day a week.

The museum became closed to the public on Mondays, but staff continued to work that day, "using Mondays as a day to continue our move process" from the former museum building on Douglas Avenue, Gette said.

"We're trying to mothball Douglas as best as we can, to save on utilities and things like that," which "was part of our savings plan," he added.

Phone service to the Research and Collections Center on Douglas Avenue was eliminated in October. That building, where the museum formerly was housed, now is used to store museum collections.

Also, cell phone service was discontinued, and discretionary spending on supplies, travel, training, repairs and equipment was cut unless absolutely necessary.

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