UPDATE: Mayor Will Sessoms will present city council next week with a letter of proposed budget adjustments, which will include $13,033 in restored funds for the Atlantic Waterfowl Museum.
VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – City council members spent Tuesday night discussing next year’s budget, and some tax payer money given to the Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum on the oceanfront is on the chopping block.
The museum’s director, Clark Mandigo, said if council members vote to go ahead with the cuts, it could have a devastating impact.
Mandigo told 10 On Your Side that the museum had over 35,000 visitors in 2015. While he admits they don’t bring in any money for the city, any kind of cuts would impact the tourist experience.
The Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum showcases the rich history of duck hunting in the Back Bay and Currituck Sound region.
“A lot of people come in, not for the museum but for the building itself. It’s not a large museum but we have a lot of variety of exhibits,” Mandigo said.
The museum’s building is 120 years old. Virginia Beach’s first telegraph office was once there, and the city’s first library is also on site. However the currently proposed budget cuts could force them to make changes.
“We really want to keep our hours what they are but if we have to cut that’s probably where we’re going to cut and that means staff cuts as well,” Mandigo said.
According to Virginia Beach Deputy Director of History Museums, Cynthia Spanoulis, the museum is budgeted for a 25 percent cut to the grant they receive from the city.
The City’s owned and operated (4) History Museums are taking a 25% cut to their operations (Budget Unit 27105), while the $13,033 represents only an 11% cut to the Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum. In Fiscal Year 2016, Atlantic Wildfowl Heritage Museum received $52,131 in funding. The City Manager’s Budget for Fiscal Year 2017 for this organization is $39,098.
“It’s minimal and some people say that’s peanuts, but when you’re running a small operation it’s not peanuts,” Mandigo said.
In the off season he said the museum is open six days a week, and seven days a week in the summer.
“In the summer time I’d say 93 percent of our guests are walkbys on the boardwalk. They don’t know we’re here,” Mandigo said.
Spanoulis wrote in an email, “City operated houses are thinking differently about operations–opening seven days per week is not efficient.” She also wrote that the free admission model at the museum should perhaps change. Her estimates show a two dollar entrance fee could generate more than $44,000 in revenue.
“We’ve made a conscious decision about keeping our admission free because it allows more people to come in and have the experience of the museum,” Mandigo said.
There are several public hearings on the budget. Council members vote on the final budget in May.