No changes eyed for museum funding

Published 3:03 pm Thursday, October 19, 2023

Smithfield’s Town Council and Isle of Wight County’s supervisors aren’t presently proposing to alter the agreement that governs their shared funding of the Isle of Wight County Museum.

The matter was one of several both bodies discussed at an Oct. 16 meeting, though neither body proposed any specific changes.

The town took over funding the county-owned museum in 2014. According to County Administrator Randy Keaton, Isle of Wight negotiated an agreement in 2018 that obligates each body to share 50% of the museum’s cost.

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As the agreement stands, the county is responsible for the museum’s operating costs, while the town is responsible for paying its personnel. Museum Director Jennifer England and Curator Rachel Popp are town employees.

Smithfield’s 2023-24 budget calls for the town to spend just over $241,000 this fiscal year on its share of the museum’s costs, a 34% increase over the roughly $180,000 the museum cost the town five years earlier, though the museum brought in just over $22,000 in revenues.

Councilwoman Renee Rountree in June called for “tough decisions” with regards to the annual expense the town incurs.

“I’m not saying that we close the museum. … I think we could be more efficient,” Rountree had said at the council’s June 6 meeting.

Councilman Randy Pack, at the Oct. 16 meeting, said the 2014 agreement was originally intended to last three years, after which the county was to resume total responsibility for the museum. Town Manager Michael Stallings said the town receives a true-up payment from the county at the end of each fiscal year to ensure its expenses remain at 50% of the museum’s annual cost.