By Ed Fincher
The budget subcommittee of the Town Tourism Committee met Tuesday to hash out the proposed budget for next year before director Jenny Green presented it to the entire TTC on Wednesday, and to the town council next month.
“Where we are going to try to get in this discussion, and what I would like to be able to do,” Green started, “is if we come up with at least the amounts we want to put in different buckets, then I can draft a budget and include it in the report packet tonight when I send that out and we can discuss it tomorrow.”
As Green began going through the budget line by line, describing what each “bucket” or category entailed and pointing out possible things that could be cut, it became obvious that there were two options for the last column on the chart: one for a normal proposed budget for 2013 and one where the proposed budget for the “Events” category was doubled and all the other buckets were reduced or emptied.
“‘Events in the past has been around $50,000 to $60,000 of the budgeted amount,” Green explained. “Now, ‘Events’ is an area that we have increased as the overall lodging tax collections have gone up.” However, this budget showed the events category with a total of $200,000.
As the meeting progressed it finally slipped out that Morgan Murri, one of the members of the TTC board, planned to submit a request for funding for an event that he has planned for next year, and the amount of money he would be asking for would be almost double what the entire events budget was for last year.
Some of the more notable suggestions for how to cut other areas of the budget were to close the uptown Visitor Center, cut back on the number of Visitor Guides that get mailed to people out of town, and to get rid of Green’s assistant, whose part-time yearly salary was $30,000, which Green didn’t feel was a good return on investment.
As Green went through each bucket and described what expenses were included in each category, and the committee searched for ways to squeeze money out of the budget, the question arose concerning what happens if, for example, the Way-finding and Signage subcommittee doesn’t use all of the money in its bucket by the end of the year.
“Technically,” Green responded, “it goes into reserves. Our reserves have continuously gone up. Traditionally we bring in more tax collections and we almost always underspend, based on the budget. So, what we do, often, at the end of the year is pay forward on line items that will be in the budget next year, so that we can build up the budget to do more project-based things.”
Several people testified that it is extremely difficult to convince town council to dip into reserve money for future projects.
Unfortunately, the full meeting of the TTC was scheduled for 4 p.m. Wednesday evening, after the SUN deadline for this week, so readers will have to wait until next week for a report on the final outcome of the discussion and the budget that will be recommended to town council.