DULUTH — The Duluth Children's Museum could permanently shut its doors if it doesn't receive city support.
"With no cash coming in for the foreseeable future, and all of our financial resources exhausted, we will have no choice but to close the museum," board chair Erica Henkel wrote to the City Council on Friday. "And with no money to pay for our new building payments, we may lose our building."
The museum is not slated to receive any tourism tax funding next year after getting just $11,000 of the $20,000 it was promised this year. The state has also pulled $70,000 in support that was expected next year, Henkel said.
Coupled with an ongoing closure due to the governor's most recent emergency order and remaining work on a new museum-owned building in the city's Lincoln Park neighborhood, Henkel said the immediate outlook is grim.
"Ultimately, our organization needs to raise a bare minimum of $25,000 to stay afloat for the next 60 days so we can reopen in our new building," Henkel wrote. "We appreciate your consideration of any assistance the city of Duluth might be able to offer to keep this valuable organization alive for future generations."
The museum first opened in 1930 and had a $688,000 budget in 2017, according to the most recently available tax filings. It is the fifth-oldest children's museum in the country.
With a 25% decrease in Duluth tourism tax allocations proposed in 2021 compared to what was approved for 2020, almost every organization that benefits from the hotel, food and beverage taxes saw their funding cut.
But Spirit Mountain is seeing its regular subsidy increase after two City Council-approved bailouts in the past year. City leaders say the increase reflects a more realistic expectation of the public ski hill's needs, though it comes at a cost to nine other groups that are losing city funding completely between 2020 and 2021.
"Spirit Mountain has a massive current source of existing funds in user fees, and will be able to continue to operate this winter without depriving the other organizations in Duluth of their much-needed funding," Henkel wrote. "The remaining $9,000 of the tourism dollars that were appropriated to the Duluth Children's Museum could potentially mean the difference between having heat in our building and being forced to close permanently."
The Duluth City Council will take up the mayor's proposed tourism tax allocations on Monday.
Brooks Johnson • 218-491-6496