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Council OKs creating special revenue funds

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The Roswell City Council voted Thursday night to create special revenue funds for three city entities after a long discussion that included 18 residents speaking of the importance of the arts, culture and quality of life for the community.

Resolution 20-35 creates the special revenue funds for the Roswell Museum and Art Center, Spring River Zoo and the Nancy Lopez Golf Course at Spring River. The special revenue funds will be set up similar to those that already exist for the cemetery and mass transit.

After a discussion that lasted more than an hour, the resolution passed 7-3. Councilors Judy Stubbs, Jacob Roebuck, Margaret Kennard, Barry Foster, Jeanine Best, Savino Sanchez and Jason Perry voted in favor while Angela Moore, Juan Oropesa and George Peterson voted against it.

While some residents and councilors spoke of their concerns of defunding and even eventual closure of the museum or zoo, City Manager Joe Neeb and councilors Roebuck and Foster sought to assure that was not the case.

“What we are trying to do with this change from the general fund to the special revenue funds is to set them up so they can be masters of their own domain as far as what these services are. They’ll be better protected within the system,” Neeb said in introducing the resolution.

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The special revenue fund will allow those entities to keep all the revenue they produce, Neeb said. If they stay in the general fund, then their revenue is distributed among all city departments.

If the museum or zoo were to charge $1 for admission, Neeb said, they would receive only a little over 1 cent of that dollar.

Neeb also said creating the separate funds does not mean the city cannot give those entities more funding.

“There’s nothing that says the City Council cannot transfer money into a special revenue fund,” he said.

Many of those against the resolution spoke of the proposed city budget’s cost recovery program, setting a goal that those three entities generate 70% of their own revenue, although Thursday’s resolution did not address that.

That issue will be included in the proposed city budget, which the city’s finance committee will consider with any amendments at its July 2 meeting. The full City Council will address any amendments in its July 9 meeting, with a special meeting tentatively set for July 23 to consider approval of the final budget.

Over about 45 minutes Thursday, residents — many of them involved in Roswell’s arts community and several of them current or former participants in the Roswell Artist-in-Residence Program — talked in person and through GoToMeeting of the virtues of the Roswell Museum and Art Center and their concerns about the proposed budget.

Many said the RMAC provides a quality of life that attracts people to move to Roswell or told how the arts enriched their lives.

Tonee Harbert is currently in the artist-in-residence program and has a photo exhibit at RMAC that was scheduled to open just as the pandemic hit. He spoke of how the arts contributed to the economic development of Portland, Maine, where he lived before Roswell.

“As we’ve seen in so many other towns and cities, artists come into an area and make things interesting and money follows the arts,” he said.

“The Roswell Museum and Art Center and the Anderson Museum provide a center point for arts and culture in this town,” he said.

Cindy Torrez, director of the RMAC Foundation, said moving the museum, zoo and golf course out of the general fund caused her to question the city’s commitment to them.

“With resolution 20-35, you’ve singled out three departments for perhaps permanent budget cuts,” she said.

“Can these departments generate income? Absolutely. But how much income can they generate?” she asked.

“I ask, where’s the commitment from the city?” she said, noting the city of Denver has pledged a percentage of gross receipts tax to its art museum.

“The cost recovery proposed is unreasonable and the council should follow the lead of cities such as Denver and commit resources necessary to ensure our citizens the quality of life they deserve,” she said.

Kennard noted the Denver Art Museum and the Albuquerque Museum both charge admission.

The Denver Art Museum’s website shows an adult admission fee of $10 for Colorado residents and $13 for out-of-state visitors. Prices are discounted for seniors and college students. Members and children 18 and younger are admitted free. The Albuquerque Museum charges $10 for those 13 and older.

“I think it’s appropriate to consider those things,” Kennard said.

Moore asked how the city expected the public to support those services in hard economic times.

“If the city is facing income shortages and money shortages, what makes them think the citizens of Roswell aren’t facing those? How are they going to be able to pay and go to a museum that’s always been free?” she asked.

Oropesa said he was not convinced creating the special funds was the way to go.

“If the city is not willing to step up and take care of them like we do every other entity that belongs to the city, then I think there is something wrong,” he said.

“If indeed none of these entities can fulfill the suggested amount for them to be raised by the city, is the city willing to assure these entities that they will not be closed?” he said.

Foster said he does not see closure of any of the three happening.

“Will we ever cut them totally out? I don’t see that,” he said, noting the proposed 2021 budget includes a subsidy for each of them.

The draft of the 2021 budget book lists a subsidy of $570,000 for the museum, projected expenses of $693,095 and projected self-generated revenue of $130,542.

“This separation is not cutting these departments away from the city,” Foster said.

“It’s just giving them a foothold to work within our system to start making some of their cost recovery back,” he said.

Roebuck, who said he is an RMAC member and has taken his children there, said he will fight for the museum.

“If for some reason they don’t make that goal, we’re not just going to close them down overnight. In fact, the zoo is not meeting their current goal for this year, and there’s no talk about closing the zoo down,” he said.

“I’m going to keep fighting for the museum. It’s not going anywhere. Everyone just needs to calm down and we’ll be OK,” he said.

City/RISD reporter Juno Ogle can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or reporter04@rdrnews.com.

To keep up with local coverage of the coronavirus, go to rdrnews.com/category/news/covid-19-situation/.

 

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