A $750,000 battle: fill budget gap or aid Miami Children's Museum?
By Risa Polansky
Though Miami-Dade administrators say the county is tapped out, Commissioner Bruno Barreiro is not going down without a fight when it comes to the cash he's been after for the Miami Children's Museum.
Commissioners late last year at Mr. Barreiro's urging voted to send the administration on a hunt for $750,000 for the Watson Island museum, which has seen donations and governmental grants decline.
His idea is to provide annual funding as the county does for other "affiliated major cultural institutions," his legislation says.
But "there are simply no other funding resources available," County Manager George Burgess wrote earlier this year in a letter to museum board President Jeff Berkowitz, noting that the county has put more than $7.5 million into the museum over the past five years.
Still, Mr. Barreiro is pressing on, with most commissioners behind him.
Tuesday, though Mr. Barreiro was absent, they initially approved a measure that would grant to the museum $750,000 from a recaptured $4.5 million meant for community-based organizations.
The problem: that extra money has already been spoken for as part of the administration's strategy to fill the $119.5 million gap in this year's budget caused by overspending on salaries with union contracts outstanding.
Under Mr. Barreiro's plan, "he's taking [the money] from the same source of funds we're using to balance the budget," budget chief Jennifer Glazer-Moon said in an interview Monday.
Using the $750,000 to boost the museum "means we have a $750,000 hole in the budget," she said.
But Mr. Barreiro pointed out commissioners asked for the museum money in October, before the administration decided in February to use the extra $4.5 million to plug the budget hole.
"That's the interesting situation," he said in a separate phone interview the same day. "When we filed the request [for the administration to find funding for the museum], there was no item yet determining where that [extra $4.5 million in community organization] money was going to be going. Then all of a sudden, at the same time, the administration presents an item using that money to balance the budget."
He called the issue "a policy situation where we conflict."
Though the commission gave the museum payout an initial OK Tuesday, it's not a done deal.
The Recreation, Culture & Tourism Committee is to hold a hearing May 10.
If it passes there, it would take one more full commission vote to go through.
And if it does, Mr. Barreiro said, "then I think we have an opportunity for the administration to look at other funding sources they have, the reserves that are available" to balance the budget.