Impact of SB 850 on Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission
The budget adopted by the Senate in SB 850 would have a devastating effect on the programs of PHMC as well as place in jeopardy the historical assets held in trust for the people of Pennsylvania. The additional reduction of $4,457,000, added to the reductions proposed in the Governor's Budget, represents a 25% cut in PHMC funding. This translates into a loss of 118 positions or 38% of PHMC staff.
SB 850 also eliminates $6.8 million from Keystone Fund, further devastating the Commission's ability to provide for essential repairs, fire and security protection and essential needs for more than 450 buildings and their associated infrastructure managed by PHMC. These buildings contain several million museum artifacts and archival collections that together with landmark structures are the historic treasures of the Commonwealth. These tangible remains of the cultural history of the people of Pennsylvania are irreplaceable and would be subject to fire, theft, vandalism, mold, water damage and deterioration from lack of maintenance.
The following is a summary of the impact that these reductions would have on PHMC and its programs.
State Museum of Pennsylvania
- Reduction of hours of operation at The State Museum of Pennsylvania to 3 days per week, meaning 70,000 fewer people served with at least half being school students.
- Limited facility use by community groups, state agencies and others.
Historic Sites and Museums
- Six sites already plan to discontinue state supported and staffed public programs in response to the Governor's Budget. Further reduction in personnel necessitated by SB850 would result in the closure of the remaining 17 sites and museums to all public programming and leave only sufficient staff to provide administrative support, basic maintenance and security.
- Site closures would result in lost revenue for PHMC and its non-profit support groups totaling $1.8 million from admissions, facility rentals, museum stores and special events.
Archives and History
- Continue operation of the State Archives with reduced public hours.
- Suspend publication of the Pennsylvania Heritage Magazine (co-published with the PA Heritage Society)
- Discontinue operation of the State Records Center
- Loss of grant assistance to over 320 organizations that provide public programs for over 8 million visitors and employ over 3,000 full and part time positions.
- Elimination of the PHMC's Keystone Grant Program means loss of 20 — 30 historic rehabilitation projects annually for buildings owned by non-profits and local governments. The value of matching, non-government funds generated by this program is approximately $15 million.
Historical Marker Program
- Suspension of the entire marker program and the cancellation of the maintenance and replacement contract for over 2,000 existing markers due to loss of Keystone funding.
Preservation of Historic Buildings, Museums and Collections
- Keystone Funds eliminated for all critical fire and security systems. These 30 systems at properties throughout the state are required to meet building codes for occupancy. Failure to maintain these systems poses a threat to life safety, historic structures, artifacts and archives.
- Keystone Funds eliminated for all site infrastructure and repairs. On-site sewage treatment plants and water treatment systems require maintenance, service and as-needed repairs that are mandated by state and federal environmental and health regulations.
- Unfunded building maintenance items such as roof replacements, gutters and down spouts could result in catastrophic failures and lead to water damage, mold and damage to artifacts.