Tuesday, November 11, 2003
We applaud the residents of Routt County for understanding the importance of preserving our heritage and approving Referendum 1A, the 0.3-mill property tax to support museums and historical organizations in Routt County.
Winning approval of this stable source of funding is of great relief to proponents of historic preservation, particularly the Board of Directors for the Tread of Pioneers Museum. For the first time in several years, the museum can go into a budget year secure in the knowledge that it has enough money to get through the next 12 months.
But as satisfying as that financial security may be, we caution the museum board that this is no time to relax. To the contrary, with the approval of the tax comes increased expectations and increased responsibility for the museum.
In past years, board members and staff have poured their energy into fund raising just to keep the museum's doors open. The museum no longer has to worry about keeping the doors open. The tax will raise about $210,000 to be distributed throughout the county, with about $117,000 going to the Tread of Pioneers. That is 65 percent of the museum's operating budget.
Now, the energy directed at raising funds to make ends meet should be applied toward raising money to promote and expand the museum, its exhibits and historic preservation efforts.
Last year, the Steamboat Ski and Resort Corp. dedicated proceeds from its 40th Anniversary Gala to the Tread of Pioneers. The museum's annual Festival of Trees allows businesses and organizations to support the museum in a festive and creative way. Both are good examples of how the museum can engage businesses, organizations and individuals, and bolster financial support.
With the tax in place, that financial support won't be needed to pay museum staff. Instead, it could be used to help the museum leverage grant funding or to market itself better.
The museum is on Oak Street, a block off Steamboat's main street. Something as simple as more signs along Lincoln Avenue directing people to the museum could go a long way toward increasing visitation at Tread of Pioneers, thus raising even more funds for the museum.
Raising money is not always a pleasant task, but it would be wrong for the museum to discontinue its fund-raising efforts now that the museum tax is in place.
With its vote, the community has expressed support for our local museums. The challenge for the Tread of Pioneers is to capitalize on the support and build upon the foundation the voters have graciously provided.