The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Focus on the Arts

April 29, 2012

Despite budget cuts, SAMA remains robust

When handling the finances of a not-for-profit museum, it is apparent that attracting money is more difficult than drawing visitors.

But for the Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art, which had more than 50,000 people visit its museums in 2011, dealing with shrinking government funding is an ongoing challenge, with its four satellite systems at Loretto, Johnstown, Ligonier Valley and Altoona.

Thomas Koppmann of Port Matilda, Centre County, is the board of trustees treasurer and vice president of M&T Bank in Altoona.

Koppmann, who chairs the board’s finance committee and is a member of the museum’s executive committee, developed a two-year strategic plan that will maintain a strong financial position providing for the long-term viability and health of Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art.

The operating budget for 2012 is $1,066,650.

Never-ending endeavor

John K. Duggan Jr. of Pittsburgh, board of trustees president, said raising money is a never-ending endeavor.

“We have a small endowment compared to other art facilities, and each year we face a $1 million operating budget,” Duggan said. “And we have to start from scratch to cover those expenditures.”

Ann Benzel of Altoona, board vice president, said that in the current economy, “dollars are extremely tight and we are operating on a budget that would be considered small for one museum, let alone four.”

Financial position

Since coming on board in 2008, Executive Director Gary Moyer said, one of the hallmark achievements he has seen is the stabilization of SAMA’s financial position.

“By increasing our revenues and decreasing our debt, we can offer, sustain and further develop programs for our museums,” Moyer said.

“We have an overarching annual budget for SAMA, but we have developed the accounting and record-keeping capabilities to report the financials on a museum-by-museum basis.”

Major expenses include staff compensation, art education programs, mounting exhibitions and facilities’ maintenance, repair and operations.

“SAMA is an economic engine for the region with museum dollars spent in the local economies,” Moyer said.

“Ninety percent of SAMA’s revenues are derived from the support of individual and corporate donations and foundation grants.”

Moyer said the budget will continue to be an issue.

“We will have to bolster existing fundraising initiatives and secure other funding sources in order to maintain museum operations and sustain SAMA programs,” he said.

The museum currently boasts 11 full- and 11 part-time employees.


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