Friday, June 7, 2013

Groups line up for city funding

Mayor dubs marketing budget ?poker game?


By BRENNAN REGO
Express Staff Writer

     Several organizations strutted their stuff on Monday in presentations to the Ketchum City Council in an attempt to secure funding for fiscal year 2013-14 from the city’s local-option-tax fund.

     The fiscal year starts Oct. 1. The LOT fund is expected to have about $2,128,000 in fiscal year 2013-14. It is funded by a 2 percent tax on by-the-drink liquor sales and short-term lodging, including vacation rentals, and a 1 percent tax on retail sales, including building materials.

     Fly Sun Valley Alliance asked for $90,000, an uptick from the $50,000 the council gave the organization last year.

     “Quite frankly, we know our costs are going to go up,” said Executive Director Carol Waller. “Particularly our MRG costs.”

     The nonprofit negotiates subsidized air service into Friedman Memorial Airport via minimum-revenue guarantees, or MRGs. Waller said air service is “very important” for both tourism- and non-tourism-based businesses.

     The Ketchum Community Development Corp. asked for $116,400, the same amount as it received this year. Executive Director Jon Duval said the organization plans to continue its mission of developing projects that increase workforce housing and infrastructure and economic development.

     The city’s Wagon Days Committee asked for $109,500, the same as last year. Wagon Days coordinator Heather LaMonica Deckard said the event this year will feature some new twists. (For more information on this year’s Wagon Days, see Page 6.)

     Mountain Rides Transportation Authority asked for $600,000, an increase compared to the $522,610 it received last year. Executive Director Jason Miller said that federal funding is “going down” and fuel costs are “staying high,” hence the request for additional funds.

     “We’re a pretty easy equation,” Miller said, referring to what would happen if the organization did not receive as much as it requested. “Service has to give.”

     The Sun Valley Marketing Alliance asked for $456,000, the same amount the city gave it last year (not counting an additional $25,000 that Ketchum contributed after the Sun Valley City Council voted in August to reduce the organization’s funding from $350,000 to $250,000). Mayor Randy Hall said that was a one-time increase and that the city would likely not give the organization more than $456,000.

     Hall also said he wished that an Idaho Mountain Express reporter were not present at the meeting because he did not want to reveal how much the city might be willing to contribute to the Marketing Alliance until he knew how much Sun Valley might be willing to give it this year.

     “There’s a piece of this that’s a bit of a poker game.”

     Sun Valley Mayor Dewayne Briscoe said in an interview following the meeting that Sun Valley has “not addressed that yet” but that he’ll likely hold meetings next week to do so.

     The council did not make any decisions concerning the requests, though Hall suggested they “sleep on it” and email him recommendations.


Budget woes?

Ketchum City Administrator Gary Marks at a City Council meeting on Monday said that the council must make a course correction to a recent spending spree or the city will be unable to balance its budget in a few years.

“I’m showing this to you to show you there’s another train on the track, a train wreck in [fiscal 2015-16],” Marks said.

The fiscal year begins October 1.

The city has saved up some reserves over the past few years, which Marks had previously suggested that the council “burn off” so as not to sit on the money. The city’s goal was to lower its reserves to about 17 percent of operating expenses, enough to pay the city’s bills for about two months. However, Marks said at the meeting that the council has recently committed to several large expenses and that, perhaps, it should now consider slowing down its spending.

Those expenses include upcoming costs for a final master plan for a proposed whitewater park near Hulen Meadows subdivision ($127,000 in fiscal 2012-13 plus $82,000 in fiscal 2013), a $70,000 yearly commitment to the Blaine County Housing Authority (for which a formerly sustainable support fund has dried up) and a cost-of-living adjustment for city staff members that would total $52,000.

According to Mayor Randy Hall, the city expects that most of the expenses for the estimated $2.3 million whitewater park will be paid by private donors, including paying for the plan. He urged the council to approve that expenditure. Hall said donors have raised $125,000 so far, more money than the city has spent to date on the project.

“We’ve been leveraging the [crap] out of this money,” Hall said. “It’s a good lever for us.”

Council President Baird Gourlay and Councilman Jim Slanetz expressed concern about the donors raising enough money to complete the project. Gourlay requested that Hall schedule an update to the council on the project’s finances from Parks and Recreation Director Jennifer Smith. Hall agreed to do so.

“I don’t know a kayaker who has a dime,” Gourlay said. “They live in their vans down by the river.”

The council supported the raise for city employees. Council members agreed that the raise would be fair for staff members who are not full-time firefighters, considering that the council approved earlier this year a contract with the full-time firefighters union that Hall said will cost the city an additional $101,000 per year (another new expense), mainly for “benefits and wages.”

The council is not expected to approve the budget until September.


Brennan Rego: brego@mtexpress.com




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