The Centre Furnace Mansion has provided historical education and internship opportunities for Penn State students since the mid-1980s -- but it may soon find itself in financial trouble.
Gov. Ed Rendell has proposed eliminating the Museum Assistance Program line item in the 2009-2010 Pennsylvania state budget. As a result, the Centre County Historical Society (CCHS) could lose $12,000 in government funding, Rhiannon McClintock, program coordinator for CCHS, said.
The state government will soon vote on cutting the line item -- which has greatly supported the museum for years -- as a result of the failing economy, McClintock said.
Michael Smith, a spokesman for Rendell, said there were line cuts throughout the budget, and 90 percent of these cuts were because of the economy.
"The reality is a number of difficult choices had to be made and this happened to be one," Smith said. "The bottom line is we've had to reprioritize our budgets."
CCHS currently receives $6,000 annually in a general operating grant from the Pennsylvania government, as well as an additional $6,000 in a matching grant from Centre County, McClintock said.
"They have to vote on this and whether it will be cut," she said. "It's not definite, but it's not looking good."
The possible loss in funding would greatly affect the museum's capacity to provide educational programming and exhibits, she said, because the grants comprise a significant part of the society's annual income.
"My take on it is that they're looking to cut expenses, and the government feels that museums are not necessary to fund, which is not true," she said. "We need the assistance."
But Jon Eich, chairman of the Centre County Board of Commissioners, said he does not expect the county's funding of CCHS to decrease.
"We recognize the value of the historical society," he said "I would be surprised if our funding to them changed significantly."
Eich said the society has received $6,000 in supplemental allocations annually from the county for the past six years. He said the funding comes from local tax dollars.
McClintock added the museum provides internship and research opportunities for Penn State students. While the museum would still be able to provide these services, the budgets for them would be significantly cut if Rendell's plan is approved, she said.
If the line item is deleted from the state budget, McClintock said the museum will be forced to depend more heavily on fundraisers and donations, such as the annual Plant Celebration at the Centre Furnace Mansion, taking place on May 9.
But McClintock said she is concerned about depending on the community in a tough economic time.
She added the museum community is especially concerned with the future of state funding for institutions such as CCHS.
"If they completely eliminate the funding, it won't come back," she said. "If there's a little bit of money there's a possibility it will continue and they will possibly increase the amount in better times," she said. "But once it's gone, it's gone and it won't come back."
Dolores Simpson, a volunteer at the mansion, said she has been affiliated with the museum for 14 years. She said the historic site is important to community education.
"We have tours for children, from all over the county -- third and fourth graders studying history," she said. "It's a Victorian mansion and really worth seeing."