February 1, 2023
Oklahoma Historical Society Announces 2023 Legislative Agenda
OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla. — The Oklahoma Historical Society’s (OHS) 2023 legislative agenda includes a request for increased funding to cover personnel raises, higher operational costs, additional funding for affiliate sites and more.
The agency requested $1.25 million to help bring the salaries of 87 OHS staff members within 15% of the regional median. Approximately 75% of the 87 employees make less than $45,000 a year, excluding benefits, and fall 15% or more below the regional median. The funding also includes targeted increases for other staff members who earn more than $45,000 annually, excluding benefits, but fall 25% or more below the regional median.
“The Oklahoma Historical Society has some of the most dedicated and passionate staff members in state government. If we are to continue to fulfill our mission to collect, preserve and share Oklahoma’s history, we need to retain and attract exceptional staff,” said Trait Thompson, executive director of the OHS. “Our agency completed a salary study in the fall, and we learned that some positions within the agency are as much as 40% to 50% below the regional median salary for similar roles. Our multi-year goal is to get all staff members to within 15% of the regional median salary, and this session, our priority is to focus on those making $45,000 or less.”
Thompson also requested an additional $1,092,000 to help cover higher operational costs. An estimated $780,000 would help offset rising costs due to inflation, especially with construction/maintenance and IT. The rest of the money would cover increases in employer-paid taxes, mandatory benefit allowance increases and increased property insurance costs.
The OHS worked with State Representative Ty Burns (R-Pawnee) and State Senator Chuck Hall (R-Perry) to file HB2253 and SB486, respectively. The bills would allow the OHS to directly purchase light-duty trucks for use at museums and historic sites across Oklahoma.
HB1776 by State Representative Kyle Hilbert (R-Bristow) and SB944 by State Senator Adam Pugh (R-Edmond) would create the Oklahoma Semiquincentennial Commission to plan events throughout the state to celebrate the 250th anniversary of the United States in 2026.
“This year’s Oklahoma Historical Society legislative agenda reflects the desire of the board of directors to see the agency prosper now and in the future,” said Deena Fisher, OHS board president. “The OHS serves a critical role for the state by ensuring our most important historic sites are well-maintained and by staffing them adequately to educate the public. I am thankful for our partners in the legislature who recognize the necessity of our mission and see the importance in preserving our unique history.”
Other highlights in the budget request include increased funding for its six affiliate sites, totaling $204,000, and an additional $20 million to complete OKPOP in Tulsa.
The mission of the Oklahoma Historical Society is to collect, preserve and share the history and culture of the state of Oklahoma and its people. 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 okhistory.org.