State, Home Port Alliance look for other revenue sources
By CAROL COMEGNO
The state treasurer has taken steps to help the financially troubled battleship USS New Jersey museum.
Treasurer John McCormac said he has advanced $160,000 to the Home Port Alliance, the nonprofit coalition that runs the museum.
McCormac said he is looking at more ways to help the waterfront attraction.
The museum recently announced layoffs for more than a dozen of its 90 paid employees and other cutbacks intended to save about $400,000.
McCormac said the advance, from a battleship license plate fund, will help the museum meet its $5.7 million budget.
"The ship is not just a valued city resource but a valued state resource, and we hope to do everything we can to help through their early years," McCormac said.
He said he will ask the Legislature to give another advance from the same fund and to identify other potential sources of money. The license plate fund totaled $226,000 for fiscal year 2003.
Drivers make a one-time $50 payment for a battleship license plate, then pay an additional $15 for annual renewals.
The treasurer said the $160,000 was funneled to the alliance through the state Battleship New Jersey Foundation. The foundation, a separate fund-raising group created by the Legislature in the 1980s, is the recipient of the special fund and periodically makes payments to the alliance.
The ship also receives money from another state account to which taxpayers can make a donation for the ship on their state income tax. Last year, that account totaled $84,900.
Alliance co-chair Patricia Jones expressed appreciation for McCormac's help. She said her group also wants a permanent state grant to be included in the state budget next year, putting it on equal footing with other museums and cultural groups that receive direct state aid.
"We're not embarrassed by the shortfall situation," Jones said. "We are only a 2-year-old operation that is raising more than $4 million a year to support the museum. Unfortunately, many people perceive that the museum is financed by the state and it isn't."
Jones said the budget shortfall was due to an attendance decline blamed on bad weather. She also cited the loss of an expected state grant of $7.2 million, a casualty of budget cuts by the state government.
Reach Carol Comegno at (609) 267-9486 or firstname.lastname@example.org