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Waukesha County Board considers limiting funds to museum

Request comes after troubling financial news

Jan. 9, 2014

Before it approved giving the Waukesha County Museum $150,000 in its 2014 budget, many supervisors had their concerns about continuing to help fund it.

Now, on the heels of the museum announcing serious financial woes, the Waukesha County Board will consider an ordinance that limits the disbursement of funds to no more than 8.3 percent of the $150,000 appropriation each month of the fiscal year until the executive committee approves full funding. 

It would only give an approval after it receives reports of support from the Waukesha County Department of Administration.

The ordinance request was made by Supervisor Peter Wolff, who represents the Town of Delafield.   

"The county board did not have the correct financial data when we approved the museum's funding during the 2014 budget review," Wolff said. "As stewards of the taxpayer money, the county board needs more information about the museum's financial viability before we can release all the funds."

The ordinance directs the Waukesha County Department of Administration to review the July 1, 2012 to June 30, 2013 museum audit. It will also review corrective actions implemented by the museum and conduct a report analyzing the financial viability of the historical society to continue museum operations.

Tom Constable, museum board chairman, said the recently-completed audit, is expected to show that the museum did not raise enough money for the Les Paul exhibit that opened last summer. 

The exhibit cost $800,000 but Constable said the museum only raised $700,000. Constable said the board was surprised by the deficit.

He said the audit could also show a $250,000 deficit in the museum's bottom line.

Constable added the audit revealed several invoices not being paid and some donor-restricted funds may have been used for other museum purposes. 

With the museum recently undergoing management changes after its former chief executive officer/president, Kirsten Lee Villegas, resigned in late September, Constable said the museum will turn around its financial struggles.

Former Waukesha County Executive Dan Finley has taken over as interim CEO, and along with Constable, has cut back its staff to limit spending. But like Villegas, Finley asked the county for more financial support in 2014, only to be given half of what it received in 2013. 

"The museum board chair has assured me they are taking steps to address their internal financial controls," Waukesha County Board Chairman Paul Decker said. "But until the audit is released and studied we do not know what financial shape the museum is in to operate into 2014."

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