The Richland Public Facilities District board on Monday discussed the need to slash operating expenses as cash in the bank is dwindling.
The board has $72,600 in its operations account, which district staff said will last about six weeks.
But the district has a little more than $10 million in its construction account for the as-yet-unbuilt Hanford Reach Interpretive Center, $800,000 in an operations account held by the city of Richland, and $1 million in an endowment account for the proposed museum.
The board in a 4-1 vote opted to move $100,000 out of the Richland operations account into its operating fund to buy some extra time to sort out its 2012 budget.
Vice President Rick Jansons voted against the transfer, saying he would rather use the six weeks of cash as an incentive to get the budget done sooner rather than later.
Lisa Toomey, the district's new executive director, also said she would rather not rely on a transfer because that might damage efforts to raise money for the museum.
"I keep getting comments from the community about how can we keep spending money at the rate we're spending and ask people to make donations," she said.
The board initially had considered taking the money from its construction account, but Toomey advised against that.
"I'd really like to protect our construction budget," she said.
Consensus among all five board members was that the operating budget needs to be revised soon, but some board members said they need to make decisions about how they will proceed with the museum building before they know what the operations budget should be.
"I don't think it makes sense to make cuts until we know what our goal is," said board member Nick Ceto.
The district's board in recent weeks has begun exploring a phased version of the 61,000-square-foot museum that would have them constructing about half or the museum as a self-contained building, or possibly constructing the entire museum but leaving half of it as an unfinished shell.
They will have a public workshop March 28 to talk about what each option might cost and to solicit input from citizens.
The operating budget for 2012 adopted in December is about $992,000, which includes a $125,000 severance payment to former CEO Kimberly Camp required by her employment contract, and payment of her health insurance benefits for seven months after she left.
About two-thirds of operating expenses -- or $675,000 -- are budgeted for salaries and benefits, including Camp's severance.
The adopted budget anticipates about $836,000 in revenues for 2012 but also expects to have $200,000 left over from the 2011 budget that can go toward 2012 expenses.
The budget projects ending 2012 with about $44,000 in the bank for operating expenses.
But Camp's departure was only days away when the budget was adopted in late December, and the board scheduled a review for this month to give Camp's replacement a chance to have input into the agency's finances.
Board members told Toomey that they expected her version of the agency's budget will differ from the one drafted by Camp.
"Reducing operating costs is something we put in your contract," Jansons said to Toomey. "We are looking to your leadership."
Dan Boyd, the board treasurer, said he expects there are items in the budget that the board might opt not to spend.
Toomey said she is looking at moving the district's offices to save money on rent and will slash the budget for marketing and public relations or any other tasks that staff members can perform in-house rather than contracting out.
She added that she would like to avoid laying off any of the six employees working under her.
"Obviously, staff are very concerned because they know salaries are a huge part of operating costs, and I'm concerned for them," she said. "I have concerns about staff because these are people we're talking about here."
-- Michelle Dupler: 582-1543; firstname.lastname@example.org