Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Who will Pay for the Arizona Centennial Museum?

The February 12, 2010 press release entitled “Governor Announces Centennial Birthday Present”, stated “The Governor also explained that no public funds will be used to build this new museum. The Arizona Centennial Commission, The Arizona Centennial 2010 Foundation, and the representatives from the “Five Cs” are working collaboratively to collect the necessary private sector funds to renovate and maintain the museum.” The
Governor elaborated further during her February 17 Centennial Summit, saying “In our continuing effort to streamline and bring efficiencies to government, and to privatize whenever possible – NO FUNDS from the state will be used – rather funding will come from foundations, corporations, citizens, and grants.”

So, within 5 days, the Governor contradicted herself concerning the funding. First she said there would be no “public funds”, and then she said there would be no “funds from the state”. The obvious implication is that Federal funds will be used if possible, and there is hearsay evidence that at least one of the Cs did in fact apply for a Federal grant.

If any truly private money has been either collected or committed, that is apparently being kept secret. On May 25, 2009, NAZ Today published an article entitled “Fundraising at a Standstill for Arizona’s Centennial”. At that time, no funds had been raised. Former Phoenix Mayor John Driggs was quoted as saying “We ought to be doing the best job, and frankly, we’re not doing any job at all”. In March of 2009, the Arizona legislature eliminated the 2.5 million dollars of state money that had been budgeted for the centennial, leaving the Centennial Commission with nothing. If any private money has been subsequently secured, the Centennial Commission has been surprisingly quiet about that.

The Arizona Centennial Museum (ACM) is to be part of the Arizona Historical Society (AHS). At the same time the Centennial Commission fundraising was stumbling, the future of the AHS looked bleak. In a June 7, 2009 letter to the Governor, the Director of the AHS stated “We respectfully request that you do not pursue your five year plan to phase out all state appropriated funding for the AHS. To do so will result in the elimination of the AHS ---“.

Somehow, between June 2009 and February 2010, the AHS was pulled of the chopping block and assigned the responsibility of operating the ACM. Therefore, even if the ACM is somehow built with private funds, the taxpayers have to support the cost of keeping the AHS out of the grave. According to JBCL Analyst Bob Hall (FY2011 Appropriations Report) that cost is $4,062,500 for FY 2010 and $6,292,200 for FY 2011. The increase is due to rent for the ACM building and rent for the Papago Park Museum building which was sold and leased back. So, there is a partial answer to the opening question. The taxpayers will pay a minimum of 6 million dollars per year for the AHS – ACM package.

Now, how about the cost of creating the ACM in the building rented for $589,700 per year? First, how much money is required to design and build the museum displays, and how much money is required for the planned renovation of the building? No one seems to really know. The sole source contractor for the museum displays provided a rough half page estimate for displays and architectural work on the building. That estimate was nine million dollars, but examination of that document shows it does not include renovation costs. The total project cost is obviously much more, but there appears to be no documentation (or at least no released documentation). A clue may be found in the FY2009 and FY210 AHS budgets prepared by JLBC analyst Caitlin Acker. It shows and extra 6.5 million dollars of non-appropriated funds in FY 2009 and an extra 25 million dollars in non-appropriated funds in FY 2010. Assuming that the extra funds were for the ACM, someone somewhere estimated the total cost of the project as 31.5 million rather than 9 million.

However, during the Senate hearing on HB 2251 establishing the ACM, the cost was said to be only 9 million. Concerned citizens commented on the bill stated that the true cost had to be much higher, but the committee brushed this comments aside and approved the bill. One of the Senators commented that it did not matter how much the ACM cost because it would be built with the “Governors money”. No one seemed to wonder why a law establishing the ACM was necessary if it would not require any state funds.

So, we know that the ACM will cost more than 9 million dollars, and perhaps as much as 30 million dollars. Whatever the number, hearsay evidence at the time of the Senate hearing suggested that each of the Cs were going to contribute 1 million, and the state was going to put in 4 million. Given the bleak future of several of the Cs (as discussed in a prior post), chances of each of them contributing a million seem slim. No information concerning other potential contributors appears to be available.

So, there appears to be no complete answer to the opening question at this time. Whatever happens, the Arizona taxpayer is on the hook for 6 million dollars per year whether the ACM is built or not. Beyond that, what will happen? Will some money from the sales tax increase be diverted to the ACM? Will Federal stimulus dollars fund the ACM? Will corporations requiring permits and licenses to operate in Arizona be expected to contribute? Will more State Parks and rest stops be closed to make funds available?

The Arizona Department of Mines and Mineral Resources (ADMMR) previously paid the $589,000 rent on the building for use as office space and for the mineral museum. The Governor cut the ADMMR budget, so that they could not pay the rent and must move out next month.

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