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Smithsonian’s repair budget drops despite aging facilities

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The Smithsonian Institution in Washington is to receive more money from Congress next year but perhaps not enough to address its greatest need: repairs.

Budget appropriations overall will increase to $621.3 million for fiscal year 2006, up from $615.2 million this year, according to the institution's federal budget. But money for revitalization, planning and construction of facilities will drop to $99.5 million from $126.1 million.

Officials said much of the drop is due to the completion of costly renovations of the Patent Office building, built into last year's budget, and that they actually received $9 million more for facilities upkeep than they had requested.

Still, the budget announcement comes on the heels of a report by the Government Accountability Office that detailed a "broad decline in the Smithsonian's aging facilities," including water leaks, asbestos problems and other maintenance concerns that threaten collections.

The Smithsonian estimates that it will need $2.3 billion over the next nine years to address the problems. Next year's budget may leave the museum complex running behind.