City Council Backs Fresno's Met

May 21, 2009 7:37:39 PM PDT
Fresno's tax payer money will remain on the line as the Met Museum struggles to stay afloat. On Thursday, city council members reaffirmed a $15 million loan to the museum. Met leaders did not present a plan to fix their finances, because the Met's attorney said they are still working on it. The Met is facing huge deficits and is unable to repay the city $15 million. We learned expenses have been cut but not enough to stay open.

Riley Walter is the Met's Attorney. He told the city council, "Unfortunately, they have exhausted every opportunity, every avenue and they are not able to come up with the refinancing of the debt." Walter said the museum is nearly $20 million in debt. It opened last year after years of renovations and millions worth of investment. Met leaders said to cut costs they eliminated 25 positions, slashed employee benefits by 50-percent and dramatically reduced operating hours.

Even with those moves, the Met still faces a multimillion dollar deficit just to keep their doors open. Council President Cynthia Sterling chose her words carefully and said, "I'm just perplexed and disappointed to be in this position today. I feel that I stepped out and was assured the tax payers' money would not be put at risk."

Council Member Lee Brand called the Met non viable, "Can you sustain this operation? Are we simply buying time here? We are looking for solutions. The city is looking at a 15-million dollar loan that they've loaned."

The Met's president said they could be sustainable in the future, "We will go forward, but we will not get any major gifts. Those philanthropists who have always been our friends are holding back. They want to see where we go."

The Met's executive director said in 10 days the mayor will review their strategic and fundraising plan. But that plan will not be finalized until June. If the plan fails, tax payers could eventually loose millions of dollars.

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