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Article posted: 7/2/2013 4:25 PM

St. Charles to support heritage center with hotel taxes

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The St. Charles Heritage Center opened in 1933 and the nonprofit hasn't been promised the support of St. Charles tax dollars until now.

Aldermen expressed near unanimous support this week for using hotel/motel tax dollars to support the heritage center. Up to now, the organization has solicited city funds every year through the city's cultural commission, though that funding is never guaranteed. Museum Director Natalie Gacek said the center needs more reliable funding in order to plan and budget properly.

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"We're the only organization in St. Charles that is charged with preserving the documents and photos of St. Charles' history," Gacek told aldermen. "The majority of our revenue comes from grants right now."

Aldermen agreed to make the heritage center a regular line item in the city's budget going forward. For that current budget year, that means giving the center $35,000 in hotel/motel tax dollars for operations. The center currently has $102,800 of total income budgeted for the year. That includes fundraising efforts and other grants. The center will return the $33,250 in money allocated to it by the cultural commission earlier this year.

"This is a program that has been a long time in coming," said Alderman Jim Martin. "We've finally arrived at where the city is willing to fund it."

The heritage center has long worked with the city to provide historical exhibits that match city events. Most recently, the center crafted an exhibit for the Red Gate Bridge pedestrian walkway opening. The center also serves as a genealogy resource for local residents and has regular programming for local third-grade classes learning about St. Charles' history.

The city council must take one last vote before the funding change is approved.

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