Supervisors to Use Tourism Tax to Fund Loudoun Museum

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.

Loudoun Museum curator Alana Blumenthal at the board meeting where supervisors voted to send $156,000 to keep the museum afloat.
Loudoun Museum curator Alana Blumenthal at the board meeting where supervisors voted to send $156,000 to keep the museum afloat.

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.

One thought on “Supervisors to Use Tourism Tax to Fund Loudoun Museum

  • 2016-05-27 at 6:47 am

    Geary Higgins sits on this board and undoubtedly worked very hard to get them the TOT funds. He also has worked very hard to get the Waterford Foundation TOT funds ($150,000) so they can “repair their finances”. When asked, Geary Higgins will not respond as to whether or not he is a member, but his son-in-law sat on the board, and provides IT services to them per his LinkedIn account. Geary Higgins has been recognized as a donor to the Waterford Foundation and in all likelihood, with that donation came a membership.

    This bos approved the use of the money for the Waterford Foundation of $150,000 1.) with NO process, no application, no vetting, not by the deadline, no notice to anyone, no comment from the innkeepers, all required by the TOT Ordinance (the TOT fund is called a “restricted fund” for a reason;) 2. ) with just a letter DATED THE SAME DAY AS THE APPROPRIATION saying the money would help repair their finances (nothing about tourism at all); 3.) saying they did not have funds to make it to the third quarter (good reason for a bail-out?); 4.) when the Waterford Foundation, in the past has generally had $1.2 – $2 Million in income from the rental of properties, weddings, wine tastings, concerts, memberships, etc.. every year ~ competing at an advantage against for profit companies who provide the same services; 5.) and when the Waterford Foundation had at least $339,000 in income last year from the make up fair; 5.) when the Waterford Foundation has millions of dollars of assets (“depreciated” value of their real estate holdings in excess of $6M, Fair market Value probably closer to $20M); 6.) and they have no debt but a big line of credit, and 6.) they pay their Executive Director almost $200,000.. Something does not pass the smell test.

    This sure looks like the “appearance of a conflict of interest”. And worse, giving pork to his friends.

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