“We are not lobbying for increased funding. …Just…a constant source of funding.”
Thus argued NMI Museum director Daniel Aquino Jr. during a stakeholders’ meeting with legislators yesterday at the NMI Museum of History and Culture.
This comes against a backdrop of a proposed $214,207 funding for the museum in fiscal year 2020. That is a steep drop from the museum’s fiscal year 2019 budget of $462,984 and fiscal year 2018’s budget of $245,478.
Aquino fears that, without sustainable funding, the museum will not be able to maintain its current condition and even worsen in five or more years.
He said that, if given enough funds, the museum plans to create upgrades such as a coffee shop and the proposed fixture of the underground bunker that will be used to attract more visitors. Aquino believes these upgrades can help generate funds that will help maintain the life of the museum.
Present at yesterday’s stakeholders’ meeting were House Speaker Blas Jonathan T. Attao (R-Saipan), vice speaker Lorenzo I. DLG (R-Saipan), floor leader Rep. John Paul P. Sablan (R-Saipan), Reps. Joseph Leepan T. Guerrero (R-Saipan), Joel C. Camacho (R-Saipan), Richard T. Lizama (R-Saipan), Luis John DLG Castro (R-Saipan), and Joseph A. Flores (Ind-Saipan).
The museum is also experiencing a shortage of staff, with only three onsite workers; the museum plans to hire more staff if provided the funding.
In certain situations like performing a museum change-over, the NMI Museum has to reach out and collaborate with agencies such as the Marianas Visitors Authority, Aquino said.
Meanwhile, the museum also receives donations through sponsors that are used for museum upgrades.
According to Aquino, the current goal of the museum is to build local interest and let younger generations know that the museum is always there. In order to do that, they will need proper funding. He also thanked the CNMI Legislature for being aware of the issues surrounding the museum’s inadequate funding.
A solution for this issue is being eyed through House Bill 21-52, introduced by vice speaker Lorenzo I. DLG (R-Saipan). This bill will allocate 20 percent of the Beverage Container Tax to fund the operations of the NMI Museum.
Attao was impressed with the museum’s new improvements and hopes that it will be able to sustain the effort.
H.B. 21-52 was pre-filed last May 17. The projected 20 percent of the Beverage Container Tax in fiscal year 2019 is estimated to amount to $225,000. The fiscal year 2020 estimate is $186,027.60.