What Would Mark Twain Say?

Posted on August 15, 2011. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

Declining attendance figures … dwindling donations … and soaring operating costs. It’s been a tough few years for the managers of Connecticut’s historic sites, as they strive to protect our community’s heritage in a daunting economic climate.

Some of the worst wounds on their fiscal budgets, though, have been self-inflicted in nature. Consider, for instance, the travails of the Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford. A few years ago, the Museum invested in a costly $19 million growth project, resulting in an expanded facility with higher operating costs. Although the State later provided a $3.5 million grant, the Museum continues to struggle to make ends meet, earning a mere two star overall rating from Charity Navigator.

Even worse, the museum’s long-time fiscal Controller recently pled guilty to embezzling more than $1 million between 2002 and 2010. Although she is obviously no longer employed by the Museum, the impact of the loss of funds — as well as the reputational damage — will undoubtedly reverberate for years.

Historic sites like Hartford’s Old State House, Harriet Beecher Stowe Center, and Mark Twain House serve multiple roles as educational resources, tourist attractions, and community institutions. Most of us believe that they can and must be preserved, and yet we must also expect a reasonable level of fiscal competence and honesty from the organizations themselves.

Contributed by Michael Kraten, PhD, CPA, Accounting Professor at Providence College and President of Enterprise Mgt. Corp. http://aqpq.org

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