Answering questions about COSIWritten by James A. Hoffman | | firstname.lastname@example.org
We live in the Information Age.
Among the countless ways that fact affects our lives is how well informed today’s voters can be on issues that are important to them. With seemingly boundless information at our fingertips, voters are asking better questions, harder questions, more informed questions than ever before about political candidates and issues.
As a longtime member of the board of directors at Toledo’s Center of Science and Industry (COSI), I’ve been very much aware of the questions the citizens in Lucas County have about Issue 37 to reopen COSI.
In fact, I welcome the opportunity to address them.
Here are a few of your questions (and my answers) I’ve found to be most on the minds of the voters relating to Issue 37 to re-open COSI:
Why should I pay for COSI if I never use it … and don’t have kids to use it?
During the past 10 years, COSI Toledo has educated thousands of children in science, mathematics and technology and promotes economic development in the area. Businesses throughout the area have recognized the important role COSI plays, which is why they are speaking out in favor of COSI — and continue to do so. They know that, if they want to have continued success, businesses rely on a talented and educated work force — now and years from now. COSI has the ability to stimulate that work force for the future.
How can you assure the community that this time you will remain in business?
COSI Toledo’s finance committee has taken a very prudent approach in calculating an operating budget for the next five years. Provided there are no unforeseen circumstances, COSI will have adequate revenue to operate through 2013, by combining funds from this levy, private businesses and the state funds.
COSI Toledo’s previous funding model came from 100 percent private support. After years of operating under a funding model that included no public funding for operating expenses (which is nearly unheard of for science and children’s museums — 90 percent receive public funding), the COSI Board of Directors determined that this model is not sustainable.
COSI’s new funding model brings several factors together to create a reliable funding base that combines private and public money. With passage of the levy, several area businesses will follow through on promises to help develop new, locally relevant displays that will educate visitors on the products and processes in which these companies are involved. Businesses see the value in a future work force that is knowledgeable about science and technology.
Passage of the levy also will allow the release of nearly $1 million in embargoed state funds that are earmarked for refurbishing exhibits and developing new displays. This money cannot be used for operations.
What other funding options have you considered? What steps have been implemented to try to trim the budget? What has COSI Toledo done to improve its situation before requesting public funding?
COSI Toledo has taken many steps to make the current funding model work; it operates more efficiently and with greater attendance percentage than most similar facilities in other cities. The board worked hard to respond to its financial challenge in a fiscally prudent manner. Prior to closing, staff costs were cut by more than 50 percent, and overall expenses were reduced by $1.2 million for the fiscal year. Programs that were not generating net revenue were cut, including summer camps, some school classes and community programs.
There has been talk that Portside is not the best location for a science museum. Why not move to another location, where COSI can sustain itself without public assistance?
The COSI Toledo board is open to all possible locations for COSI Toledo. However, the board has estimated the cost of relocating the science center at more than $5 to $7 million. Additionally, there will be expenses in preparing and renovating a new location. Considering COSI Toledo’s current lease agreement of $1 annually for the next 20 years with the City of Toledo, moving to a new location does not appear to be a financially responsible option.
Toledo organizations depend too heavily on levies, and Toledo families are facing difficult financial situations right now. If we support this levy, what should we cut out of our budgets?
COSI Toledo gives people the chance for a brighter future at a price that is less than many fast-food meals. The cost to the owner of a $100,000 residence is $5.21 per year. Yes, per year. One less fast-food meal for one person will pay COSI Toledo’s levy for one year. It seems like a very small price for a large return.
What can you say to the person who’s voted down the levy every time in the past? How can you change his or her mind?
Our youth are our future. The current generation must give future generations reason to stay. A strong science- and technology-based economy, fostered by COSI Toledo, will help make this area attractive to business and industry and, in turn, supply future generations with employment.
Many people are under the mistaken impression that COSI Toledo is an entertainment venue. COSI does fulfill that role, but it is much, much more. COSI Toledo is more similar to the Toledo Museum of Art, The Toledo Zoo and the Toledo-Lucas County Library. COSI Toledo is a place of discovery, of learning, of education and of preparation for the future.
We live in the Information Age.
At a time when American youth across the country are being outperformed in science and technology subjects by children from other countries, now is the time to act. Shutting out yet another opportunity to advance our community is not forward-thinking.
Thank you for the inspiration to answer some questions on your collective minds about Issue 37 for COSI.
There is much more information at the Web site www.keepcosi.com. Keep seeking it out. I trust you’ll find the long-term benefits of having a vibrant COSI are valid and needed in our community.
James A. Hoffman is president of KeyBank’s Northwest Ohio District.