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Published: Tuesday, 2/28/2006

COSI cuts jobs, mulls fall ballot levy plea

BY CLYDE HUGHES
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Six full-time and two part-time COSI Toledo employees were laid off yesterday to trim the downtown science center s budget in the face of an expected revenue shortfall.

Lori Hauser, COSI Toledo s director of operations, said the move will save $300,000 annually in salary and benefits. She said those jobs could be restored if the science center is able to pass a levy it wants to put on the ballot in November.

[The layoffs were] something we did not want to do, Ms. Hauser said. It s totally an economic decision. We will do our best to maintain the experience [of COSI] for our visitors. Some things might slightly change, but we will do our best to continue the experience.

Ms. Hauser declined to say who was laid off and in what positions. She said COSI will remain closed on Mondays. Board president Dr. F. Michael Walsh could not be reached for comment.

It s the second time in four months COSI Toledo has chosen to trim its staff. The center cut three jobs in November after its executive director, Bill Booth, was asked to step down in May.

COSI Toledo has an operating budget of $3.2 million for the fiscal year before the layoffs; the fiscal year ends in June. The organization s budget anticipates revenues of about $2.8 million for that period.

Ms. Hauser said attendance at COSI Toledo rose 24 percent between 2004 to 2005, but said the center could not survive on attendance alone.

In museums across the country, the majority of science centers operate with about 20 percent of its budget coming from public funding and we don t, she said. It s not an attendance issue, but a revenue issue. We need to find an additional revenue source.

She said COSI has contacted city and federal government officials as well as nonprofit and educational organizations about grants and other funding sources.

We re still pursuing all of our options with the possibility of a levy in the fall, she said.

COSI Toledo officials have discussed a five-year, 0.125-mill countywide levy that could raise about $1.25 million a year.

A levy proposal needs to undergo a citizens review and be approved by the Lucas County commissioners. Ms. Hauser said even if the levy was placed on the ballot and passed, those funds would not be available until 2007.

She said that means COSI Toledo will continue its belt-tightening for the rest of the year.

We have a tremendous team here, and we re going to do our best in providing the services that our visitors expect and deserve, Ms. Hauser said.

Contact Clyde Hughes at: chughes@theblade.com or 419-724-6095.



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