Please allow me to clarify exactly what the Seneca County Board of Commissioners has done and is planning to do in the future with respect to the Seneca County Museum.
First, I would like to state it is my greatest hope the commissioners will be able to come to an agreement with a private entity that will operate the Seneca County Museum. I do not want to sell items that were donated to the people of Seneca County, for the enjoyment of the people of Seneca County, to the highest bidder.
The story that has been related to me by many long-time residents and local historians is years ago a mansion at 28 Clay St. was donated to Seneca County residents by Tiffin's first millionaire, with the intention that the building would serve as a county museum. And so it was from then till now that Seneca County has owned and operated a museum at 28 Clay St. Over the years, many objects have been loaned or outright donated to the residents of Seneca County for all to enjoy and learn of our local history.
Since becoming commissioners in 2005, Commissioner David Sauber and I have worked very hard to control the expenses of Seneca County government. In addition, since joining the board in 2011, Commissioner Jeff Wagner has been a great asset in our effort to maintain this cause. Since 2008 all offices of Seneca County have been operating at approximately an 18-percent reduction in funding of operating expenses. All of the previous reductions in county expenditures were done pro actively to revenue reductions and with the help and cooperation of all elected officials and department heads. This extraordinary cooperation between departments was accomplished through exceptional communication of all involved. However, due to disproportionate reductions in funding to local governments from the state, it would not be enough and we must make further, deeper, cuts.
Gov. John Kasich has proposed, and the Ohio House has approved, a budget that would eliminate close to $1 million in revenue to Seneca County over the next two years, and this is only the beginning. The governor's budget also suggests changes in how criminals are housed when sentenced to jail. This measure alone could cost the local Seneca County taxpayers millions more. Understand the money being taken away from local governments is money that we have counted on for more than 50 years and it is money used to provide direct services to taxpayers here locally.
Because we no longer can accurately predict future revenue, proper fiscal management dictates the board of commissioners must do everything in its power to control future expenses. This is accomplished by eliminating operating expenses that are not mandated by the state. Prudent management also would prevent the board from long-term debt financing at this juncture because we have the practical limitation of not knowing whether we would be able to make the payments over the next 20-plus years.
For the last several years, the Commissioners Office has sought to eliminate the county's involvement in the museum. Toward that end, we have, on many separate occasions, contacted the Museum Foundation to be the logical entity to take over the day-to-day operations, culminating with correspondence from the county prosecutor in 2010. However, to this point, we have been unable to come to a workable agreement that would eliminate the county's yearly operating expenses of more than $40,000 and keep the museum open. It also has been related to me that the foundation can only spend revenue generated by the investment of their principle endowment of more than $1 million, and not the endowment itself.
It is due to these circumstances that this board decided to sell the museum and its contents. Since we have announced this action, several people and nonprofit organizations have expressed an interest in finding a way to keep the museum open. I am happy to listen to any proposal that eliminates our yearly expenses and at the same time salvages those items important to our local history, and I will work very hard to make this happen.
My intention is not to "cash in" on items that were donated to the people of Seneca County. My intention is to continue to be proactive, as opposed to reactive, and reduce county government commensurate with our available revenue. In addition to the museum, we have been working on eliminating expenses through consolidation of departments and services throughout county government.