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Tax levy has funded the operations of the museum for many years, sustaining the facility and enabling growth

CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Bowman Museum tax levy, which has historically enjoyed overwhelming voter support, primarily helps the facility fund day-to-day operations.

Bowman Museum Director Sandy Cohen admits that when he first learned that the local facility was supported by a tax levy, it concerned him.

He thought that maintaining the level of community support necessary to continue the tax might present a challenge.

"Not every city does that," he said. "The last place I worked, they wouldn't put (a museum tax levy) on the ballot. The mayor opposed it."

He was pleasantly surprised to learn that Prineville is different than other places.

"It has passed overwhelmingly for years," he points out. "It is very special for a small town like this."

The Bowman Museum tax levy comes before voters every four years and will once again appear on the general election ballot for Crook County residents to consider. The tax is 6 cents per thousand dollars of assessed property value — or about $12 a year on a $200,000 home, museum leaders point out.

"We try to make that real world argument because that puts it in perspective," Cohen said of the $12 per year figure.

The tax levy will appear on the ballot during a time of recent growth and the potential for even more growth going forward. Museum leaders just put the finishing touches on its Caboose Park railway exhibit, featuring a difficult-to-miss City of Prineville Railway caboose. Facilities leaders have also taken ownership of the former Hans Pharmacy building and are looking to use it for future expansions.

The museum receives funds from several different sources, including the Crook County Historical Society and from private donations, but much of the operating expenses for the facility are covered by the tax revenue.

"It doesn't provide funding for everything," Cohen said, "but I would say a significant, important part of the funding is obtained from this. Quite frankly, if we didn't have it, we would be hurting big time."

Cohen went on to note that because most private donations to the museum are intended to support "new and exciting things" like special projects or new exhibits, it can be a challenge to raise operating funds that cover staff salaries, museum supplies and bills.

"Operations funding is the hardest thing for museums to get," he said.

Voters will decide on the museum tax levy in less than a month, on Nov. 6, and Cohen is hopeful that people will give it the same wide support then that it has received in the past.

"This is really the lifeblood of the museum," he said.

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