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Living history interpreter Mike Fowler gives Sophie, a hinny, a treat in exchange for a 'handshake" on Thursday, December 3, 2020, at Vermilionville.

The board of Bayou Vermilion District, which operates Vermilionville in Lafayette, expects to end 2022 with a positive balance for the first time in at least three years.

The 2022 budget for the year that begins Jan. 1 was approved by the board Tuesday. It projects ending the year on Dec. 31, 2022, with a $170,000 balance in part because of cuts and increased revenue projections.

In 2021, board member Karen Hale said, the district would have finished the year at a $60,000 loss without a $400,000 federal Shuttered Venue Grant it received because of government-ordered venue closures caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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In 2019, she said, BVD operated at a $180,000 deficit in part because its operating expenses were greater, especially at Vermilionville.

"Overall in the budget itself we really trimmed down the Vermilionville side as far as the expenses," Hale said Tuesday of the 2022 budget. "The thrust in doing this and talking with staff that developed this budget was to make sure we do everything possible to make sure Vermilionville is sound and we can move ahead and have more visitors, make it a place for tourists to come, keep the museum's accreditation."

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Hale stressed the need to increase revenue at Vermilionville, a living history museum, to trim expenses and propose a realistic budget.

The board's legal adviser, she said, has reminded the board repeatedly they are required to cover expenses.

"We haven't been doing that in past years," she said. "A $170,000 projection in 2022 is a very good number."

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Some residents and employees have been concerned the board may try to shutter Vermilionville or sell it because it's not making a profit. 

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At the BVD board's Dec. 15 meeting, Melanie Harrington who resigned recently after working six years as an educator at BVD, accused many of the current BVD board members who are affiliated with the conservative self-described government watchdog group Citizens for a New Louisiana of targeting Vermilionville because employees issued a statement condemning systemic racism after the May 2020 death of George Floyd by Minneapolis police.

So many employees have quit recently, from artisans to museum curators, that Harrington said she fears Vermilionville will lose its American Alliance of Museums accreditation. It is one of about 22 museums in the state that is accredited.

During the budget process, Hale said, staff was adamant about beefing up Vermilionville, including upkeep and maintenance and paying for artisans and musicians that draw visitors.

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The 2022 budget includes an additional $40,000 for interpreters, for a total $110,000, and an additional $12,000 for performers and musicians at a total of $38,000.

Other areas were cut, including museum outside personnel, reduced from $9,000 in 2021 to $5,000 in 2022 and materials and supplies for education and programming, cut by $2,050, leaving $3,000 for 2022.

The budget projects $74,250 of gift shop sales and membership, up $12,380 from 2021. But the gift shop is expected to have a $5,350 shortfall by the end of 2022.

The hospitality section of Vermilionville, which includes the restaurant, catering, facility and equipment rentals and the cooking school, is budgeted to generate an additional $88,100 in 2022, but, with expenses, have a $41,795 shortfall.


Email Claire Taylor at ctaylor@theadvocate.com.