Our view: Cultural grants idea good for museums
Leavenworth County commissioners have taken a big step toward equity in passing out tax funds to community museums.
Commissioners recently approved a $100,000 line item in the 2008 county budget for grants to fund cultural centers throughout the county. In its 2007 budget, the county allocated $96,000 for museums: $46,000 to the Leavenworth County Historical Society, which is housed in the Carroll Mansion, $25,000 to the First City Museum; and $10,000 to the Richard Allen Cultural Center, all in Leavenworth; it also gave $5,000 each to the historical museums in Basehor, Lansing and Tonganoxie.
The three museums outside of Leavenworth welcomed the county funding, no doubt, but seemed to come out on the short end in comparison to museums in the county seat.
Beginning in 2008, the county funding will be awarded on a competitive basis, with the focus on program-oriented, acquisition-oriented and preservation-oriented projects that focus on culture or are of a historic nature and could spur tourism in Leavenworth County. Grants, the commission said, will only be provided to groups that spell out exactly what programs they will fund. To further ensure that grant money is being spent appropriately, costs will be reimbursed only after they are incurred.
We don't doubt the county money given to museums in the past was well spent. But requiring an action plan, rather than simply handing over money, makes sense for the county and its taxpayers.
The new plan is more fair than past practice. It evens the playing field for all of the museums in the county and should result in a better return on the county's investment. It also has the potential to result in quality acquisitions that can polish the reputation of these museums and help them draw more tourists to the respective communities.