SANTA ANA — The Bowers Museum of Cultural Art has reduced operating hours, cut salaries and laid off two part-time employees in an attempt to pare its budget by nearly 15%.
The cutbacks came in the same week that the 57-year-old museum, which collects artifacts from Africa, the Americas and the Pacific Rim, won long-sought accreditation from American Assn. of Museums.
Bowers will cut staff salaries 5% across the board and shift employees to a four-day, 36-hour workweek. That means staffers will no longer work on Mondays, when Bowers is normally closed to the public. On weekends, the only personnel are security guards and volunteer docents.
As of Jan. 1, the museum will close an hour earlier, at 4 p.m.
Also, although the museum used to be open on the Mondays that are legal holidays, that will no longer be the case, museum director Peter Keller said.
"I am very concerned about having the museum in a very stable financial position 10 years from now," Keller said Wednesday, referring to an agreement with Santa Ana to phase out city support over the next several years.
"In order to do this, we have to have an endowment, and for whatever shortfall we have (in the endowment) we have to have cash reserves," Keller said.
Cutting salaries and staff hours should trim about $500,000 from the current $3.6-million budget. That solution "would save the most and basically help the morale of the staff," Keller said. "Having Mondays off, when the museum was closed anyway, seemed to have the least impact on the public."
About one-third of the revised $3.1-million budget comes from the city. The remainder is from private donations and about $1.2 million is income from the museum store, the museum restaurant, admission fees and facility rentals.
The museum's cash reserves fell to about "a couple hundred thousand (dollars), plus pledges" during the four-year, $12-million expansion completed last year, Keller said. The renovation tripled the museum's size and doubled its exhibition space.
Keller said he anticipates that no layoffs beyond the two part-time administrative staff members will be necessary, even though payroll for the 68-person staff is one of the museum's biggest expenses, along with utilities.
To lower utility costs, Bowers will install motion detectors to dim the lights in galleries when no one is there, for an estimated savings of about $48,000 annually.
The immediate impetus for the cost-cutting measures was an analysis of the increased expense of running a larger museum one year after Bowers reopened.
"We're trying to run the museum in a very efficient and smart manner," Keller said. "We felt we were wasting money and we don't want to do that any more."
The cutbacks coincided with news Wednesday that the museum's collection policies and public service meet with the approval of the American Assn. of Museums, a respected Washington-based national organization. Of nearly 8,500 museums in the United States, only 739 have been accredited by the AAM.