Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:42 am
Milwaukee County Board Chairwoman Marina Dimitrijevic announced on Tuesday details of a proposed new agreement between the Milwaukee Art Museum and the Milwaukee County War Memorial that would require the county to give the cultural institutions nearly $1.6 million in funding each of the next 10 years.
Funding would support repair and management of the War Memorial, which has deteriorated in recent years with crumbling concrete and leaks threatening damage to an art collection the Art Museum houses in the War Memorial.
While Milwaukee County owns the War Memorial property and building and leases it to the War Memorial, the Art Museum serves as a tenant.
Within the proposed agreement, the Art Museum would collect about $1.1 million each year from the county, and about $486,000 would be distributed to the War Memorial.
The framework of the proposed agreement was outlined at a County Board parks committee meeting last week, and Dimitrijevic called a press conference at the War Memorial Center on Tuesday to expand on details alongside Supervisors John Weishan Jr. and Gerry Broderick.
Dimitrijevic said she is in support of the War Memorial and the Art Museum working together and being stable.
“Part of them being stable is being serious about their budget and their needs,” Dimitrijevic said.
Dimitrijevic called the proposed agreement a “small increase” of an investment.
“In the whole scheme of things, I think it’s about value,” Dimitrijevic said. “Cost is important, but what’s really important is the value that we’re providing to the citizens here, the value of having a properly funded and maintained war memorial for our veterans and protecting our art.”
Under the 2012 county budget, the county allocated about $1.2 million to the War Memorial and Art Museum. In 2013, the county increased its funding to the institutions by about $212,500 to help them move forward. The county planned to return to 2012 funding levels in 2014.
The proposed agreement brought forth by Dimitrijevic would allocate $4 million more to the War Memorial and Art Museum over the next 10 years.
County Executive Chris Abele, who said he was not aware Dimitrijevic would be making an announcement related to the budget until receiving a notice on Monday, opposes the proposed increase. He would like to see both cultural institutions find more efficiencies and be clearer about their fundraising and budgeting plans so that taxpayers’ dollars are used wisely.
“My job is to be a steward of (taxpayers’) money, and this isn’t my money,” Abele said in an interview on Monday. “This is your money.”
Abele said he would advise taxpayers to keep a close eye on the War Memorial and the Art Museum to ensure their dollars are being spent effectively.
County officials plan to hold a special meeting of the Finance, Personnel and Audit committee on Thursday morning to consider the agreement. The full Board of Supervisors will vote on the agreement after that meeting. If the proposed agreement passes, it will head to the desk of Abele for review.