Stuhr Museum Reports Rising Costs Exceed Record Revenue | Grand Island Local News

The Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer’s expenses exceed its revenue, despite record visitor numbers and rising revenue.

During a budget session of the Hall County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday, Executive Director Chris Hochstetler described the museum’s performance over the past year as “a tale of two towns.”

The museum generated $2.2 million in its 2021-22 fiscal year, 17% more “than we’ve ever achieved in our history.”

“It’s pretty important to us as we strive to grow,” he told the board.

Unfortunately, Stuhr’s expenses exceeded his income, exceeding by about $178,000, Hochstetler said.

“It’s disheartening for me to have this historic gain in income and still be short on expenses,” he said.

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Hochstetler attributed this to rising costs.

It has cost about four times as much to pay the electric bill since the spring, and four times as much “just to run the mower”, at $10,000 for fuel a month, which he called unprecedented .

“We’ve never experienced this type of cost before,” he said.

Long-standing plans to invest in and expand Stuhr’s offerings and programs, such as its new bistro, represent an “unplanned cost.”

However, the cost of food has also increased.

“The block cheese actually increased three times in value in just two weeks in the spring,” he said. “We went from $13 for a box to $30 for a box of cheese. It’s crazy.”

Stuhr employs 102 people, mostly part-time and some seasonal. Summer is Stuhr’s biggest payroll, Hochstetler said. The museum’s budget this year does not include planned salary increases.

“The culture of stasis has produced austerity in Stuhr for years,” he said.

An exception is a two-year employee at the curatorial office, which has four staff members and is responsible for 147,000 artifacts.

This staff member is needed, but cannot survive on $10 an hour. His salary will therefore be increased to $11.25 an hour.

“He’s one of 102 right at that $10, $11 an hour range,” Hochstetler noted.

Commissioner Gary Quandt asked Hochstetler what would happen to Stuhr if the state’s minimum wage increased to $15 in November.

Stuhr should “reinvent itself from the core,” Hochstetler said.

“We only have two hourly employees who earn $15 an hour. The others are $10.25, maybe a few $11,” he said. “A leap that big for us, we couldn’t have a visitor experience staff. We couldn’t staff the front door with hourly employees. We were unable to staff the bistro. We couldn’t provide our rural town with historical interpreters. It should be a static display.

He added: “We couldn’t bear the cost of this.”

Stuhr is asking the county for about $900,000 for its 2022-23 budget.

The county’s overall percentage of support for the museum’s budget has dropped by 10%, which has remained consistent over the past two fiscal years, Hochstetler noted.

“We will continue to increase this budget by increasing our operating and fundraising income, because that is what we need to do,” he said. “We have to grow.”

The Stuhr Museum has a significant economic impact on Hall County, Hochstetler said, with 4,783 out-of-state visitors in the past 12 months and 10,964 out-of-county visitors.

“When someone travels that far, they’re going to spend the night. Our state tourist board says they will spend $300 per capita in the community when they stay overnight,” he said. “That’s about $1.4 million in annual economic impact and it happens regularly at Stuhr with the numbers we have now.”

Stuhr also has a human impact on Hall County.

“We are a community builder,” he said. “Our goal as a humanities-based organization, quite honestly, is to make better human beings. For them to come to us and have an experience grounded in the past, it’s a science-based experience. that really defines the shared common human experience is that DNA repository of who we are that people are exposed to.

For more information on Stuhr Museum programs, visit