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Voters to decide on DIA millage

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Detroit Institute of Arts  (Credit: WJBK | myFOXDetroit.com) Detroit Institute of Arts (Credit: WJBK | myFOXDetroit.com)
DETROIT (WJBK) -

The Detroit Institute of Arts is one of Detroit's most popular attractions, but the museum claims if it doesn't get help from taxpayers, it will have to close its doors. Supporters gathered last week for a "Save the DIA" rally.

"It's not very much, and I think ... to keep a jewel like the DIA in the City of Detroit is very important," said Adrienne Brown.

The frequent visitor of the Detroit Institute of Arts can't imagine her city without it.

It's why so many supporters attended a rally at New Center Park encouraging voters in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties to approve a millage that would cost the average taxpayer $15 a year and generate enough money to keep the doors of the cultural gem open.

"We think it's a really great place to visit.  We're hoping that it stays," said Sheri Kam.  "So for $15 once a year, we've got unparalleled visits to the DIA."

Museum leaders claim the DIA has never recovered from the loss of funding from the city and state.  The DIA has sliced its budget, cut staff and special programs, but it's not enough.  Without the $23 million generated from the millage, the COO Annmarie Erickson claims we will see a gradual shutdown of operations.

"Will it shut our doors on August eighth?  No.  But that will happen."

However, state Representative Tom McMillin has been taking a closer look at the numbers.

"I'm a CPA.  I look at numbers as a very simple financial statement."

He claims the DIA has enough money to keep it running for years to come.  In fact, he claims over the last two years, the museum generated an additional $50 million and still has nearly $100 million in unrestricted funds.

"It's been increasing.  They haven't been dipping.  They haven't been reducing it by a dime.  They've been increasing it, so there's no need to pass this.  They're doing just fine.  They just need to keep doing what they've been doing."

We're told that $100 million McMillin is referring to is actually part of the museum's endowment, the DIA's investment fund preserving its financial future.  Erickson said using that money is like burning your furniture for heat.

"And you've burned one piece and two piece[s] and three pieces and finally you've burned all the furniture and you've froze to death.  We cannot use the endowment for that.  Responsible non-profit organizations do not use their endowment in that way.  That's the fastest road to closure."

"With times as hard as they are, I think that we should support it because it's something that we cannot afford to lose in the City of Detroit," Brown said.

If this millage passes, it would expire after ten years and the idea would be to focus on the fundraising and the endowment.  That way they can get to a point once it expires to just operating off that interest.

The voters will be able to decide when they head to the polls on August 7.

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