Testimony: Operating Budget Bill Impacts to the Maryland Historical Trust

02/08/2016
By Nicholas A. Redding

Executive Director of Preservation Maryland, Nicholas Redding, testified today at a hearing of the Maryland House of Delegates Appropriation’s Subcommittee on Transportation and the Environment concerning funding for critical preservation programs.

Specifically, his testimony focused on the value of the Maryland Heritage Area program, the continued lack of funding for preservation grant programs and the organization’s opposition to proposed eliminations of staff positions at the Maryland Historical Trust. Read the full testimony below and contact your member of the General Assembly to support this effort.

On behalf of the Board of Directors of Preservation Maryland and our thousands of statewide supporters, I thank you for the opportunity to provide written testimony on the value of historic preservation in Maryland and adequate appropriations in the operating budget to support these vital efforts.

Preservation Maryland is the statewide voice for historic preservation that works to protect the best of Maryland. Since our founding in 1931, we have worked tirelessly to protect the places, stories and communities in Maryland that matter.

Today, I would like to provide testimony on the value of some of the most important programs.

MARYLAND HERITAGE AREA AUTHORITY

Position: Support Full Funding

Maryland’s Heritage Areas are places to experience – to see, hear and even taste – the authentic heritage of this great state in a unique way.  Heritage Areas are where the stories of the people, the land and the waters of Maryland, which have been intertwined for thousands of years, are told.

Visitors to Maryland in 2015 spent over $14.9 billion, generating more than $2 billion in state and local tax revenue across Maryland in just one year.  Studies have also repeatedly found that heritage tourists stay longer and spend more than any other travelers, so an investment in Maryland Heritage Areas is an investment in a proven economic development tool for a more prosperous Maryland.

The state’s 13 designated heritage areas are also one of the primary tools used to encourage heritage tourism to Maryland. The funding for this program is not derived through normal revenue, but from the property transfer tax via Program Open Space. We support full funding for this program at $3 million, as included in the FY17 budget.

SURVEY & RESEARCH GRANT PROGRAM

Position: Restore $500,000 Appropriation

Imagine for a moment a Maryland without a single historic district. Imagine no protections for historic structures. Now imagine places like Easton, Frederick and Ellicott City leveled due to a lack of local protections.

Nearly 50 years ago, planning at the state and local level kept this from happening. It started with surveying our historic resources, creating lists of what mattered to local citizens, and then creating a system of local checks-and-balances to save the best of our historic resources.

Today, funding for this all-important survey work at the state level is non-existent. Maryland is no longer funding this kind of work. The Maryland Historical Trust’s Survey & Research grant program has received $0 since 2010.

Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and West Virginia all are funding survey and research. Maryland is not. Preservation Maryland requested that the Hogan Administration fund this program in the FY17 budget, which did not happen. We respectfully request that funding be restored to a level consistent with previous appropriations: $500,000.

HISTORICAL AND CULTURAL MUSEUM ADVANCEMENT GRANT PROGRAM

Position: Restore $500,000 Appropriation

Supporting the museums that tell the story of Maryland is an appropriate and patriotic function of state government. Museums provide a sense of place in time, are a vivid reminder of our proud history and are anchors for heritage tourism to the state.

Today, the only funding available for these cash-strapped museums comes through the Maryland Heritage Area Authority, where they compete with a myriad of different grantees. Since FY2010, funding for this program has received a $0.

Preservation Maryland requested that the Hogan Administration fund this program in the FY17 budget, which did not happen. We respectfully request that funding be restored to a level consistent with previous appropriations: $500,000.

MARYLAND HISTORICAL TRUST STAFFING

Position: REJECT DLS RECCOMENDATION

As the statewide voice of historic preservation, we work very close to our partners in state government at the Maryland Historical Trust. They are recognized nationally as one of the most effective and professional state historic preservation offices and have abundantly competent and caring staff.

The Department of Legislative Services recommendation to eliminate an additional architectural historian position is not necessary and would be detrimental to historic preservation in Maryland at a time when the state has provided $0 in survey and research funding for the past six years.

The position is being recommended for elimination since it has been vacant for a year – the result of a hiring freeze. Its vacancy is not for lack of work or importance but rather state bureaucratic rules.

Please vote to support historic preservation and reject this elimination.

Nicholas A. Redding · Executive Director

Nicholas A. Redding is Preservation Maryland’s Executive Director and between announcing major organizational updates, he often blogs about Maryland and Civil War history.

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