Grand Rapids Public Museum tax explored

The Grand Rapids Public Museum (July 15, 2014)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) – After talking for several years about a tax to help support the Grand Rapids Public Museum, museum officials are conducting a public opinion survey to see if voters would pass it.

Museum officials began talking about tax support when the museum was running at a loss. And despite the fact that the museum turned a small profit in 2013 because it had an increase in visitors, officials are still considering the support.

Grand Rapids Public Museum President Dale Robertson told 24 Hour News 8 Tuesday the museum needs a stable source of revenue because its income can fluctuate from one year to the next and depends on many factors, including the popularity of traveling exhibits and weather conditions.

“When a millage passed in Southeast Michigan for the Detroit Zoo and then more recently for the Detroit Institute of Arts in three counties, that really began to cause us to think about testing what that could mean for this museum which is publicly owned,” Robertson said.

The museum’s public opinion survey is asking people what combination of tax and increased ticket prices they would accept, and whether they’d back a tax along with a separate tax to help John Ball Zoo and local fairgrounds.

But Robertson said museum officials haven’t yet decided on whether to ask for a millage.

“The final decisions have not been made and that’s one of the important pieces of being out here right now with the survey… it’s testing those kind of levels,” he said. “We’re going to learn from that and then we will have a decision to make based on a number of factors.”

Dave Elwell, who moved to Grand Rapids several years ago from New Jersey, was visiting the museum with his family for the first time Tuesday. He told 24 Hour News 8 he’d support a tax for the museum.

“I’d have no problem with that,” he said. “If we’re able to keep everything from the past so people in the future can see it, that’s a great idea.”

Museum officials will get the survey’s results in the fall, which may lead to more questions.

Robertston said officials won’t decide for at least a year whether to ask for tax support from voters.

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