Mesa’s two museums have earned far above what they expected this year, and plan to have a large enough surplus next year to return more than $60,000 to city coffers.
Mesa Arts and Culture director Johann Zietsman attributed the success at the Arizona Museum of Natural History and the Arizona Museum for Youth to creative tactics and innovative people.
“This is a huge achievement,” Zietsman told the City Council during a budget presentation Thursday.
The Arizona Museum of Natural History budgeted $325,000 in revenue this year, but expects to earn $400,000. Next year’s revenue was budgeted at $344,000 but is expected to total $430,000, allowing the museum to give $43,000 back to the city.
Meanwhile, the Arizona Museum for Youth budgeted $162,000 this year but will reach more than $216,000. Next year the museum expects a $38,000 surplus and will send $19,000 back to the city.
Vice Mayor Claudia Walters applauded the efforts of the Arts and Culture Department.
“I am so impressed,” she said. “I just don’t think we can overstate the changes taking place with the perception and community buy-in.”
However, Mayor Keno Hawker was less impressed.
He said departments would have no downside in predicting low revenue and then exceeding expectations.
“So why would any department not make up a low number?” Hawker said. “And then come in and say, ‘Wow, we’re heroes, look at how great we are.’ ”
Zietsman said the numbers were not submitted by the museums, but set by the city budget office based on previous performance. For instance, the Arizona Museum for Youth was expected to earn only $50,000 in fiscal year 2006-07, after the city had slashed its arts budget and the museum staff thought it would have to cut hours.
Instead, the museum brought in more than $210,000 that year with the help of several volunteers and a new approach that allowed the museum to be open year-round, instead of its previous nine-month season.
“There was a real sense of insecurity after the cuts,” Zietsman said. “But they turned around and showed they were made of different stuff.”
Overall, the Arts and Culture Department increased its revenue by $1 million and increased participation, which includes attendance at shows and classes, by 45,000 people, Zietsman reported.