Despite efforts of State Senator Pamela Althoff (R-McHenry) to rein in unnecessary spending on new add-ons to the budget and at the same time maintain appropriate funding levels for core responsibilities at the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency (IHPA), lawmakers still approved a budget for the agency that would force deep budget cuts in essential services, while adding money in other areas for non-priority items — forcing dozens of historic sites to lay off employees, reduce site hours or close down entirely.
The Illinois Historic Preservation Agency announced that 13 sites will be forced to cut hours after Labor Day due to a 19 percent reduction in funds for Fiscal Year 2015, from $5.7 million to $4.6 million. However, while lawmakers approved budget cuts for IHPA’s operational expenses—promising it would not affect site closings—they also voted to add new spending measures, said Sen. Althoff.
This spring, lawmakers appropriated $250,000 for the State Bicentennial Commission, which was created by Governor Quinn through Executive Order. The responsibility of this Commission is to plan Illinois’ “200th Birthday Party,” which is not until calendar year 2018.
Additionally, $550,900 was appropriated to IHPA for the Lewis and Clark Historic Site in Madison County, which represents an increase of $307,600 or 126 percent over Fiscal Year 2014 funding levels. According to IHPA, the Agency has no understanding of why the Lewis and Clark Site would need such a significant increase in FY15.
“We were promised these cuts and unnecessary increases would not affect site closings, but dozens of historic sites are now being forced to significantly reduce hours or close their doors completely,” said Sen. Althoff.
“Rather than spending money on ‘planning’ Illinois’ birthday or increasing funding for the Lewis and Clark Site we could appropriate these increases towards alleviating the budget pressures these sites are facing. Tourism is one of the largest contributors to Illinois’ economy and it is critical we budget responsibly to keep these historic sites open to the public.”
Senator Althoff filed an amendment this spring that would have partially restored HPA funding by eliminating the unnecessary 126 percent increase to the Lewis and Clark Site, as well as the new $250,000 appropriation for the Bicentennial Commission. However, her efforts to restore nearly $557,600 in funding were defeated.
“This is just another example of the state’s continued mismanagement of taxpayer dollars,” said Sen. Althoff. “I will continue to push for a funding solution to help keep these sites from laying off more employees and having to cut more site hours.”
For more information about the site closures and new hours visit the Historic Preservation Agency’s website, www.illinois.gov/ihpa.