June 17, 2016
Oklahoma Historical Society to Absorb Budget Cut
OKLAHOMA CITY — On June 15 the Oklahoma Historical Society Board of Directors met in special session to deal with a record-breaking budget cut that includes an 11.65 percent decrease in appropriations and a $112,000 decline in sales tax revenue.
“This cut of more than a million dollars will force us to vacate 20 staff positions and shift cost-sharing to support groups across the state,” said Dr. Bob Blackburn, executive director of the OHS. “The impact is especially painful because the OHS has absorbed a series of cuts since 2008 that had already reduced the staff by 38 and depleted operational accounts.”
The cut, according to Blackburn, could have been worse due to an accounting error made in the closing days of the legislative session.
“By mistake, the 11.65 percent cut was applied to funds set aside to make bond payments for the Oklahoma History Center,” said Blackburn. “Fortunately for the state’s credit rating and our operational budget, legislative leaders, OMES Director Preston Doerflinger and the Governor’s office found a way to relieve the cash flow crunch and cover the inadvertent $248,000 cut until a supplemental appropriation can be considered in February.”
The plan approved by the OHS Board of Directors is structured to absorb the cuts without halting the progress made in recent decades. Every operating division is affected, with 58 percent of the cut assigned to the Oklahoma History Center and 42 percent shared by satellite operations across the state.
Of the 20 positions lost to the cuts, 7 were already vacant due to the recent revenue shortfalls and 13 will be vacated through voluntary buy-outs. The cuts will affect the operations of the Oklahoma History Center, the Will Rogers Memorial Museums and 21 museums scattered from Bartlesville and Durant to Frederick and Goodwell.
“We will be turning to our partners around the state to sustain programs and keep our research facilities and historic sites open and accessible to the public,” said Blackburn. “Education, heritage tourism and historic preservation are too important to do less.”
The mission of the Oklahoma Historical Society is to collect, preserve and share the history and culture of the state of Oklahoma. Founded in 1893 by members of the Territorial Press Association, the OHS maintains museums, historic sites and affiliates across the state. Through its research archives, exhibits, educational programs and publications the OHS chronicles the rich history of Oklahoma. For more information about the OHS, please visit www.okhistory.org.