Ketchum Mayor Neil Bradshaw’s proposed fiscal 2020 budget cuts $105,000 from the Mountain Rides Transportation Authority and Visit Sun Valley.
If the City Council adopts that budget, the funding cutback would mean elimination of hundreds of service hours for Mountain Rides and the possible elimination or scaling back of Visit Sun Valley’s research surveys and a drop in its regional marketing.
The budget proposes to cut Mountain Rides’ funding to $600,000, from its level of $665,000 in the current budget. Visit Sun Valley’s funding would go to $400,000 from $440,000, though the marketing organization also receives money from the 1 Percent for Air local-option tax.
The cuts have not taken effect yet and would apply to the 2020 fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1. The City Council will hold its first reading of the budget on July 15.
Mountain Rides and Visit Sun Valley have requested increases from the city of Sun Valley. The Sun Valley City Council will hold two budget meetings on July 8 and July 9. Mountain Rides has requested $352,000 in fiscal 2020, compared with $322,350 in the current budget. Visit Sun Valley has requested $320,000 next year, compared with $294,000 this year. The Sun Valley City Council has not yet taken action on those requests.
During a Ketchum City Council meeting in June, Mountain Rides Executive Director Wally Morgus explained how a $60,000 cut would affect his organization.
He said Mountain Rides would look to cut 1,100 service hours from its route plans, likely on the Blue Route after 10 p.m. and on Sundays. He said the west Ketchum leg of the Red Route would be eliminated.
Morgus said the pain is worsened because the Ketchum funding is used as a local match for federal grants. A $65,000 cut would turn into a $134,000 loss of revenue due to the expected decrease in federal dollars.
In an interview Tuesday, Visit Sun Valley Executive Director Scott Fortner said the effect on his organization is tougher to predict because of the possibility that the city of Sun Valley or the Idaho Travel Council could increase their funding to offset Ketchum’s cut.
The 1 Percent for Air revenue is also on the upswing. Ketchum forecasts to have $2,221,861 available in 1 Percent for Air revenue in fiscal 2020, compared with $2,132,987 in the current budget. Those funds are provided to the Sun Valley Air Service Board and pooled with money from the cities of Sun Valley and Hailey, then split between Visit Sun Valley and Fly Sun Valley Alliance.
If fiscal 2020 started with no funds to replace the $40,000 loss, Fortner said, he would look to reduce or eliminate the on-the-ground surveys that Visit Sun Valley conducts with guests and tourists in Ketchum. It would also scale back its regional marketing efforts that target Boise, Pocatello, Twin Falls, Idaho Falls and Salt Lake City in the fall. That would affect fall 2020.
The 1 Percent for Air dollars can’t be spent regionally because they must be tied to the farther direct-flight markets that connect to Friedman Memorial Airport.
Fortner said Visit Sun Valley has not sought an increase in funding from Ketchum for the past seven years.
“Given that tax collections are at a record high in the city, it seems disappointing,” he said. “We didn’t ask for an increase. It seems like we’re regressing and not progressing.”
Fortner said he was more concerned with the long-term ramifications, and the message it sends about the support of tourism locally.
“What does that tell other tourism-related businesses?” he asked.
Bradshaw’s proposal maintains funding for Wagon Days at $142,000 and supports other city-sponsored events at $85,000. Funding for the Ketchum Innovation Center would drop to $140,000, from $160,000 in the current budget.