Sci-Quest May See Fewer Huntsville City Tax Dollars Following Science Center’s Move to Madison

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - Sci-Quest Hands-on Science Center knows its new address. What it does not know is whether a move to Madison will impact its future funding from the city it has called home for more than a decade.

Sci-Quest announced last month it will move from Wynn Drive in Huntsville to a vacant and larger building off Madison Boulevard. The science center has to move from the Calhoun Community College campus because Calhoun needs the space for its own expansion.

Sci-Quest expects to move into its newly renovated Madison storefront in February 2013, however, the eight-mile span may come at a price. Changing from one city to the other will likely mean Sci-Quest cannot expect the same amount of financial backing from Huntsville.

Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle says the city appropriated more than $230,000 in funding to Sci-Quest this fiscal year alone. Battle says continuing that kind of support now that the science center belongs to Madison would be highly unfeasible.

"There are always great programs out there that you want to fund and that are good for the community but there's a finite amount of money, so we've just got to make sure that we fit within our budget," said Mayor Battle.

WHNT News 19 news partner The Huntsville Times reported Wednesday all five Huntsville City Council members -- Will Culver, Bill Kling, John Olshefski, Mark Russell and Richard Showers -- agreed organizations based outside Huntsville should not expect the same level of financial support from the city.

Sci-Quest opened at Calhoun's Huntsville campus in 1999. The Times reports Huntsville has given the nonprofit science center $1.4 million since 2004 to help with operating costs.

Now it's not clear if those Huntsville tax dollars will be zeroed out -- as some councilmen suggest -- or just be reduced with the remainder divided up between different Huntsville based organizations.

"We have five or six museums which we fully fund," reminded Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle. "They have Sci-Quest now which they are planning on funding so we'll work with them -- you know, it's a community effort."

Battle refers to organizations like the Huntsville-Madison County Public Library, EarlyWorks Museum, Burritt on the Mountain museum and Huntsville Museum of Art, just to name a few.

"But you know, Madison has outside appropriations as well," said Madison Mayor Paul Finley. We contribute to The U.S. Space and Rocket Center, The Huntsville Botanical Garden," listed Finley, "even The Huntsville-Madison County Chamber of Commerce."

Mayor Finley points out the city of Madison contributes money annually -- albeit not to the degree Huntsville does -- to attractions located far outside Madison city limits, including the Huntsville Convention and Visitors Bureau and several others.

"We know it benefits our citizens so there's a balance that you're trying to find," Finley said. "When it comes to budget struggles, the Huntsville City Council is no different from the Madison City Council."

Madison will provide $50,000 in direct support for three years, Finley said.

"We see the addition of Sci-Quest to Madison as a huge benefit not only to what happens to our city's growth plan but also to meeting their mission statement," Finley says.
"So Madison will wrap our arms around Sci-Quest and help them to meet their mission and be successful."

Sci-Quest Executive Director Cyndy Morgan told WHNT News 19 if Huntsville funding is reduced or lost, the center will have to think outside the box to find new revenue sources.

"It's going to take the whole community to make Sci-Quest the very best it can be," says Morgan. "We're hoping that everybody will pitch in and help us out at what level they can. We don't know yet what's going to come but we're going to work hard to make up any differences we experience with this move and work hard to keep building and keep getting the funding in."

Morgan says she wants to remind the community the nonprofit agency that benefits hundreds of Madison and Limestone County school children every year operates primarily on local and state funding, donations and grant monies.

The Mad Scientist Ball, the premier yearly fundraising event for Sci-Quest, is coming up August 24. Tickets to the event are $50 and you can purchase them by clicking here.

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