Thursday, October 14, 2004

Museum faces cutbacks

City cutting money for local groups, even Freedom Center

By Kevin Aldridge
Enquirer staff writer

DOWNTOWN - The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center is expected to be among Cincinnati's many budget casualties next year.

Mayor Charlie Luken said in a memo sent to council members Tuesday that the city's financial situation would force him to recommend dramatic cutbacks on the money given to dozens of local organizations.

Luken said several requests made by organizations for funds from the capital budget would not be granted. He pointed specifically to a $2 million request from the Freedom Center.

"I don't think the city is going to be able to give away any money to organizations not directly related to the city," Luken said. "We have to take care of our own streets and our own buildings first."

Sue Feamster, vice president of advancement for the Freedom Center, said she hasn't received any word from the city about its funding request.

"We understand that it is a lean budget year, and we would accept any decision the city has reached," Feamster said. "The city has been a willing and strong supporter of the Freedom Center."

Since 1997, the city has given more than $6 million toward construction and development of the Freedom Center. The federal government has pitched in $23.5 million, the state $7.5 million and the county contributed in-kind services by building the museum's garage and parking lot.

Feamster said Cincinnati was just one of many revenue sources the Freedom Center hoped to tap in an effort to reach its $110 million fund-raising goal. The center has raised $102 million so far.

Freedom Center officials have put in similar requests to the county, state and federal governments.

The state has already placed the Freedom Center on its funding priority list in 2005 or 2006. Feamster said she is confident the museum would receive funding from the state.


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