Audit says MOSI needs financial fix

Tampa, Florida -- The Museum of Science and Industry is having major money problems, according to an audit ordered by the Hillsborough County Commission.

MOSI on Fowler Avenue has been struggling financially. The cafeteria was shutdown after a failed health inspection and now consultants say it needs to re-energize the experience for visitors. MOSI aims to excite and educate kids, but a new county-funded review says the museum is failing.

"We had a bad year that allowed us to get into some financial debt," says MOSI President Wit Ostrenko.

Commissioners raised concerns last fall when the financially struggling non-profit asked to dip into its reserves, and it wasn't the first time. The museum now needs to pay back $600,000 and it's seen a negative cash flow for nearly three years.

Previous story:Failed health inspection sparks MOSI contract review

"Every nonprofit needs donors to operate, otherwise we would be for-profit entities," says Molly Demeulenaere, MOSI's Vice President of Growth. "We are the organization that kind of lights that spark when kids are first interested in science. I could be a scientist, I could be an engineer, I could be a manufacturing technician. Those are the jobs of the future, so MOSI has a very vital role in our country. That's why MOSI needs your support."

Museum Management Consultants, based in San Francisco, has come up with a plan to help the museum rebound.

The consultant's study shows fundraising is a big part of the problem. MOSI only raises 5% of its revenue through fundraising efforts, well below similar museums.

One recommendation presented to the commission today is for MOSI to come up with a smaller board of directors, and committees that are held more accountable for fundraising.

The president plans to make changes immediately. "Buying a package that not only includes keeping track of finances, but a ticketing system, and tie it altogether so we have a comprehensive look," says Ostrenko.

MOSI has also now outsourced its food services after an emergency closure of the cafeteria earlier this year. Inspectors found live roaches, rodent droppings and temperature violations with the deli meat.

"Our food service group is doing a great job. They're investing a lot of money. It's great to see the new café and food service," says Ostrenko.

The consultant also believes the museum is missing the mark on its exhibits, calling them "outdated" and in need of maintenance.

MOSI is now trying to target a broader age range, instead of narrowly focusing programs on Kindergarten through 5th grade education.

"We are always working on re-energizing. We bring in new traveling exhibits every year. We just got funding to start redesigning the entire second floor of the museum with the steam showcase: science, technology, engineering, arts and math. That will really revitalize the entire second floor of the museum, and we're always adding new experiences, so it's a priority," says Demeulenaere.

"The future is bright for MOSI, but we've got a lot of work to do to get the basics down, so everyone is proud of what they're doing at the science center and the place is packed wonderfully with a lot of young people. It's just a great place to come and visit every day," says Ostrenko.

MOSI has meetings planned in the coming days to start making some of the recommended changes.

You can read the entire audit here.

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