The plan to save Loudoun Museum moved ahead with one amendment: The $156,000 budgeted for the museum in the county general fund will instead come from tourism tax revenues.
The county will take the money from $1.4 million in unallocated Transient Occupancy Tax (TOT) funding, money derived by a tax on stays at hotels and bed-and-breakfasts that is earmarked to promote travel and tourism in the county.
“We’ve dealt with this every year for several years, and we’ve never made progress,” said Vice Chairman Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) during last week’s board meeting. “They’ve missed their plan, we put more money in; they’ve missed their plan, we put more money in.”
Some supervisors—and representatives of Visit Loudoun—opposed the use of TOT funds for the museum.
“Just because the money’s there doesn’t, in my mind, make it the right use,” Buona said.
As a matter of policy, the county reached out to Visit Loudoun about using TOT funds. Visit Loudoun responded that it opposed the plan, arguing that the majority of Loudoun Museum visitors are locals and that there is no marketing plan associated with the funding to attract tourists to the museum.
Supervisor Ron A. Meyer Jr. (R-Broad Run) opposed supporting the museum outright, arguing that the county’s role shouldn’t be “doling out cash to charitable funds that aren’t directly necessarily for the benefit of the county.”
“If we think it’s our role as a county to be in the museum business, let’s be in the museum business,” Meyer said, suggesting the county might do better by buying the museum. “If it’s to subsidize a nonprofit that operates one museum in Loudoun, I think that’s a little bit hard for me.”
In addition to a $66,000 cash infusion this year, supervisors plan to spend up to $90,000 a year for up to three years for contracted development services to help turn the museum around.
Loudoun Museum Board of Trustees President Liz Whiting said the agreement itself and the county’s long-term support may help the museum attract new partnerships and investments.
“I think it’s encouraging that people are looking at the needs of the museum in a longer timeframe than from July 1 to June 30,” Whiting said. “I just think that has to help us in terms of reaching out for other sponsors and community.”
Next, supervisors will have to agree to a Memorandum of Understanding with the Loudoun Museum. The deal is anticipated to include fundraising benchmarks, requirements that museum board members donate or fundraise, and county control over hiring a third party professional development manager to oversee the museum’s turnaround.