Stating the Case for the Castle Museum Tax Hike

Posted In: Politics, Local, Finance, Taxes,   From Issue 865   By: Jonathan Webb

26th July, 2018     0

The Historical Society of Saginaw County respectfully seeks a renewal of the current .1997 mils and an increase of .07 mils (total of .2697 mils) on the August 7th ballot.  The Castle Museum sits poised to contribute to the amazing cultural and economic turnaround happening in Saginaw County, and we feel this small increase in funding will allow us to not only better preserve the history of our communities, but to become an economic and cultural driving force that will enhance the entire area.

Oxford Economics partnered with the American Alliance of Museums in 2017 to conduct an economic impact study of museums throughout the United States.  Their findings show that in Michigan, museums have a total financial impact of $871 million.  Nearly 15,000 jobs are supported by the museum industry, with over $600 million provided in wages and other income to the state’s residents.  In addition, even though many (like us) operate as non-profits, museums generate in excess of $210 million annually in taxes, and perhaps most importantly 89% of Americans, regardless of political party, believe that museums provide important economic impacts back to their communities.

There is broad public support for the county’s museums (last millage renewal in 2010 passed 66%-34%), and clearly museums have a positive impact on economic development, but what specifically do we plan to do with the additional funding?  

That can easily be summarized into the following areas of emphasis:

• Inclusion – The Castle Museum is focusing on two areas here. Partner Inclusion - Currently we partner with four other museums in the county who share in the millage funding; the historical museums in Bridgeport, Chesaning, Frankenmuth, and St. Charles.  Under the new millage, we would proportionately increase the funding to all those museums currently supported but also create a separate pool of “Project Enablement” funds that could be dispersed to ANY non-profit historical entity in the county.  For example, Michigan’s Military & Space Heroes Museum, the Burt Opera House, the Roethke House, Hemlock Historical Society,  Oakley’s Michigan Old Gas Tractor Association, the Tittabawassee Twp. Historical Society, and many more would be eligible to get funding for a history-based project.

• Audience Inclusion – Education of the county’s children is one of our foremost aims, so we would like to make the Castle Museum free to all children of Saginaw County.  Thereby, every child is allowed access, regardless of economic status.  In addition, our award-winning History on the Move vehicle is in dire need of refurbishment.  We have plans for a new, more flexible version of this program to take our history out on the road, free of charge, for schools and events throughout the county.

• Preservation – The Castle Museum has two areas of focus here as well: The Collection - The Castle Museum building itself is our greatest artifact.  Listed on the Federal Government’s Registry of Historic Places, our 120-year old former post office is an architectural gem in the region, arguably the most unique and beautiful building in the city.  But proper upkeep and preservation requires use of original materials, making any large-scale projects very costly.  The building is currently in need of renovation to many of the exterior stone blocks, some of which have deteriorated to the point where the “setting pins” between blocks are exposed.  This project will cost in excess of $100,000.00, and that simply doesn’t fit in our current budget.  Other similar projects loom in the near future.  The museum also stores, documents, and cares for nearly 70,000 other objects that make up our collection.  The five museums combined house more than 100,000 objects.    Service - We hope to preserve the level of service and staffing we currently provide our community.  Between simple cost of living increases and accelerating health care costs, more funding will be required going forward to maintain the current level of service.

• Engagement – We want to bring exhibits to Saginaw that will electrify and delight our audience, making learning fun and engaging.  These high-quality traveling exhibits are available but currently not affordable for our organization.   We believe these exhibits will bring in more visitors not only locally, but from outside Saginaw County.  The potential to bring meaningful numbers of new visitors to Saginaw County is very real. 

None of our plans, however noble, make sense if the millage imposes an undue financial burden on the population of Saginaw County, but we feel this very modest increase will not do that.  The median home owner in Saginaw County would pay an additional $0.23/month for the increase, a small price to ensure we, together with the other historical agencies throughout the county, can continue to preserve the stories and treasures of the people of Saginaw County. 





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