- Associated Press - Saturday, June 25, 2016

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) - Starting next month, New Mexico residents will no longer be able to enjoy the state’s museums for free every Sunday.

In an effort to reduce a budget deficit, state-run museums will only be free the first Sunday of each month starting July 1.

The decision comes as the state Department of Cultural Affairs is trying to meet funding cuts prompted by the Legislature. The new policy affects eight museums in total across Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Alamogordo and Las Cruces, according to The New Mexican (http://bit.ly/28NXGcz ).

In an email to the newspaper, Department of Cultural Affairs spokeswoman Loie Fecteau said that charging admission is necessary to reduce a deficit of more than $2 million. The department has other cost-cutting measures planned, including eliminating staff, hiring freezes and changing hours of operations.

The decision won’t affect museums such as the New Mexico History Museum, which admits children under age 17 for free daily.

Officials at the New Mexico Museum of Natural History and Science in Albuquerque are considering raising all admission rates by $1. The museum will host a public meeting July 20 to discuss the idea. Currently, visitors pay $7 while seniors pay $6 and children between ages 3 and 12 pay $4.

Museumgoers such as Orit Tamir of Santa Fe bemoaned the decision. Tamir, an anthropology professor at New Mexico Highlands University, says it could mean people with less income won’t be able to visit museums.

“This is a poor state,” Tamir said. “Teachers cannot even afford to live in this city. Charging them even more?”

Bill Mickschl, a hospital physiologist touring the New Mexico History Museum with his two grandchildren, said he will likely miss a lot of what the museums offer if only one Sunday a month is free.

“New Mexico has a great and interesting story,” Mickschl said. “To get that information to everybody they can, I think that’s important.”

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Information from: The Santa Fe New Mexican, http://www.sfnewmexican.com

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