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Financially Troubled South Coast Museum Seeking Government, Community Support

For more than a century, a South Coast museum has been the centerpiece of Ventura County's historic and cultural heritage.

The Museum of Ventura County has more than 180,000 items ranging from pieces from the county’s history, to works by artists.

However, the museum is facing a major financial crisis. It’s seeking government and community help to survive.

During the last four years, the non-profit institution has lost between $400,000 and $600,000 dollars annually, with reserves going from more than $700,000 to less than $100,000. Interim Executive Director Elena Brokaw says a real tipping point came for the museum came about six years ago, when it completed an expansion project at its main facility at 100 East Main Street, in downtown Ventura, and the same year added an agricultural museum in Santa Paula.

Brokaw says since becoming the interim head of the museum about a year ago, they’ve taken a number of steps to cut expenses. Employees have taken pay cuts, and the number of staff positions has been reduced. Still, with two museums to maintain, cuts aren’t enough to make up for the budget shortfall.

They’ve developed a proposal to try to get the museum back on firm financial footing. It includes developing an endowment to help pay expenses, coming up with a plan for proper storage of the museum’s permanent collection, which is currently in 14 locations around the county, and developing focus for the future role of the museum in the community.

Still, Brokaw says key to the plan is new financial support from the City of Ventura, and Ventura County. She’s proposed five years of funding from both governmental agencies, tapering down over the period. The city committed $125,000. The museum is asking the county for a $500,000 pledge for the first year of the plan. In a staff report, County officials are recommending that County Supervisors make a commitment to help when they discuss the issue Tuesday afternoon, but they are suggesting a six month, $125,000 pledge of new support, and not the $500,000 requested.

Brokaw says with city and county commitments, they can lock down $250,000 in additional community support. She says $80,000 has already been pledged contingent on the government funding, and she’s sure they can raise the additional $170,000 dollars.

Lance Orozco has been News Director of KCLU since 2001, providing award-winning coverage of some of the biggest news events in the region, including the Thomas and Woolsey brush fires, the deadly Montecito debris flow, the Borderline Bar and Grill attack, and Ronald Reagan's funeral. 
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