Deadline for Exploris

Proposal would tie continued county support to financial performance.

By Todd Cohen

RALEIGH, N.C. [05.19.04] – The financially troubled Exploris children’s museum in Raleigh is facing a day of reckoning.

In the $747 million budget for the fiscal year beginning July 1 that he proposed to the Wake County Board of Commissioners, County Manager David Cooke has called for cutting county support for Exploris’ museum and IMAX theater by $100,000 to $1,355,000.

Cooke also recommended that the county at the start of the new fiscal year appropriate only one-third of the funds for Exploris.

The county would appropriate the remaining two-thirds this fall, and only if Exploris’ current exhibit on China pays for itself and the museum’s board produces a long-term plan to stage similar big shows in the future that cover their costs.

“If ‘China’ is successful, it would show that type of themed exhibit can be successful in an ongoing way,” says David Cooke, the county manager. “Getting a plan from the Exploris board is important for continued county investment in Exploris.”

Cooke, a new member of the nonprofit museum’s board, attended a meeting of the board Wednesday at which it began talking about a long-term plan.

Anne Bryan, Exploris’ president, says the nonprofit expects to break even on its budget of nearly $4.2 million for its museum and IMAX theater for the current fiscal year if it can raise roughly $250,000 in contributed support, adding that requests are pending with donors.

“We do feel good about that,” she says.

Without that support, say people close to the board, Exploris could run a deficit ranging from $200,000 to $300,000.

The museum, which has raised more than $50 million from the city, county and state, and from private donors, worked with the county “on what finally came out” as Cooke’s proposed budget, Bryan says.

“We feel very good about it and feel tremendous support from the county,” she says.

Some members of the board of commissioners already have staked out positions on Cooke’s recommendation, on the one hand opposing his proposed $100,000 cut, on the other calling for giving the entire appropriation to Wake Technical Community College.

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