The Science Station in Cedar Rapids is in financial trouble. The museum and IMAX theater is about one-point-three million dollars in debt. The non-profit group that runs the Science Station plans to close November 15th if there is no last-minute financial reprieve.
The Science Station’s board has asked the City of Cedar Rapids and Linn County for a one-time half-million dollar “gift” to bail them out, but those officials like City Council member Pat Shey say that’s unlikely. “The public expects us to be disciplined fiscally,” Shey says. “It’s not my money. It’s not the council’s money. It’s the public’s money and so we would seek broad public input on an issue like that.”
But Shey and other council members say one option might be a deal similar to one given the Cedar Rapids History Center in 2003. The Cedar Rapids City Council and Linn County Supervisors both contributed two-hundred-thousand dollars in that year to help the History Center avoid foreclosure. But the city’s money came with some serious strings.
In order to get two-hundred-thousand from the city, the History Center board had to agree to give up 10 years of “Hotel-Motel” tax payments. The center was getting 20-thousand dollars a year from that tax on overnight stays by visitors. Now, the city keeps that money.
Several council members say they could offer something like that to the Science Station board, but the Science Center’s board president said he would be very hesitant to accept an offer like that because it would mortgage future operating funds the Science Station would need to stay in business long term. The Science Center’s former office manager has been charged with stealing more than 313-thousand dollars from the non-profit. Insurance has only covered 10 percent of that loss.