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Audit: King Center spends state money on facility repairs, updates

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(The Center Square) — The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change has received roughly $2.2 million in state funds over the past six years and has spent about three-quarters of it.

That’s the finding of an audit the Georgia Department of Audits & Accounts conducted at the request of the House Appropriations Committee. The center received the money — allocated through the Department of Economic Development’s tourism program — between fiscal 2017 and October, primarily for facility repairs and updates.

Officials at the Atlanta institution, established in 1968 by Coretta Scott King and operating in its current location on Auburn Avenue since 1981, have spent roughly 73.8% of the funds as of Oct. 30 and have budgeted the remaining 26.2% for facility projects.

“The stated purpose of the funds in the appropriations act has varied slightly over time but has generally referenced modernizing public space or making facility improvements,” according to the audit. “Because the recipient is named in the appropriations act, GDEcD views the funding as a pass-through and does not establish a contract, specify a purpose for the funds, or monitor expenditures.”

The state’s fiscal 2024 appropriations included $500,000 for the center, and according to the audit, the governor included language in the 2024 appropriations act that the money could not fund facility improvements because it is not state-owned property. Instead, the money should go toward “educational exhibits,” and center staff indicated that future state appropriations will support marketing and new educational exhibits.

Additionally, state lawmakers allocated an additional $333,333, which has not yet been disbursed.

State funding does not represent much of the King Center’s revenue but is still considered important, the audit revealed. Additionally, the audit found that the King Center’s net assets have nearly tripled, from $4.4 million in fiscal 2017 to $12.6 million in fiscal 2022, while revenue has increased from $2.3 million in fiscal 2017 to $13 million in fiscal 2023.

“In sum, these enhancements, made possible through state funding, have not only improved safety and the visitor experience but also expanded the reach of Dr. King’s teachings to a broader audience,” the center said in a response included in the audit.

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