State funding cut could bring layoffs at Martinsville museum

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MARTINSVILLE, Va. (WDBJ7) The Virginia Museum of Natural History in Martinsville is preparing to lay off a handful of employees in the wake of state budget cuts.

Director Joe Keiper says the 7.5 percent reduction in state funding will amount to more than $200,000 a year. And while he is still looking for a way to avoid losing staff, he fears the funding cut will require the museum to lay off four to six employees.

"The people we're losing, just really contribute in very unique ways," Keiper said in an interview Tuesday afternoon. "They are highly trained and they are highly experienced and to lose that intellectual and institutional knowledge is just something that is going to be difficult to overcome."

The news is better for local organizations that receive support from the Virginia Commission for the Arts.

That state agency is facing a 5 percent reduction in funding, but is cancelling an annual arts conference and taking other steps to protect grant funding that many arts organizations rely on.

That is welcome news for organizations including Opera Roanoke and the Roanoke Symphony.

"We are absolutely relieved," said Brooke Tolley, Opera Roanoke Director of Operations. "We're a small company. We are a small non-profit. We have a small budget, so every dollar really counts for us, whether it comes as a donation or a grant, we depend on that to continue to bring performances and educational programs to the Valley."

David Crane is the Executive Director of the Roanoke Symphony.

"So it's exciting to be able to do the master works, the pops, the education, and now wellness," Crane told WDBJ7 Tuesday afternoon. "None of those programs are going to be compromised by state funding, so that's an encouragement."