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Go Ask Mom

Go Ask Mom

Marbles asks supporters for help to secure Wake County funding

Posted May 22, 2020 10:52 a.m. EDT
Updated May 22, 2020 11:07 a.m. EDT

Marbles Kids Museum

— Marbles Kids Museum members and followers got an urgent email Friday morning from the downtown Raleigh museum's leaders, seeking support for its efforts to secure funding from Wake County.

"Marbles is working to safely welcome families back soon and to shore up the team you trust and depend on for hands-on learning," the email from Sally Edwards, Marbles' president, and Nate Spilker, Marbles board of directors chairman, says. "Already facing a tough financial recovery from the COVID-19 shutdown, Marbles recently learned that Wake County has eliminated our program funding."

Marbles is a nonprofit, but it operates inside buildings that are owned by Wake County. Each year, funding from the county helps pay for its programs.

But, in the county's proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year, Marbles is among the community organizations that are recommended to receive no funding. Others include the North Carolina Symphony, Boys & Girls Club of Wake County, Communities in Schools and InterAct. During the last fiscal year, Wake County doled out nearly $3.5 million to these and other community organizations. Marbles received $650,000, the same amount it's received for the last seven years.

The proposed budget for the upcoming fiscal year recommends cutting about $1.4 million from its support of these community organizations and providing $500,000 for "Aid to Community Agencies." More than $1.6 million in funding for Wake County Smart Start also has historically been included in this pot of money for community organizations, but was moved to a new section within the next fiscal year's proposed budget.

When presenting the budget on May 18, Wake County Manager David Ellis noted that the COVID-19 pandemic has "drastically changed our revenue picture," leaving the county with a nearly $29 million gap for fiscal year 2021. The recommended budget eliminates more than 100 positions across the county, delays capital projects and makes other tough cuts.

Other proposed reductions include opening all Wake County Public Libraries one hour later and closing them one hour earlier to save money on operations. The library system also could lose 32 positions, impacting programming for both children and adults, according to a county press release.

Before the pandemic, Marbles sought $964,930 in funding from the county, but is now requesting that the county restore its previous funding level of $650,000, a 30% reduction, instead, Edwards said in an email.

Marbles already has lost thousands of dollars in revenue since shutting its doors in mid-March because of the COVID-19 pandemic, including admission fees, IMAX ticket sales, rentals, camps and more. Like other museums across the region, it's contemplating how it might eventually reopen, likely during the third phase of the state's reopening plan. But reopening with potentially smaller crowds and new procedures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus will continue to impact its bottom line even when families can return.

The email from Marbles encourages its friends and supporters to contact Wake County commissioners and ask for Marbles' funding to be reinstated. The county also is accepting online public comments about the recommended budget through June 2 on its website.