Balancing Ketchum’s budget is a matter of balancing wants and needs. However, it should not feed its wants by starving its basic needs.
Ketchum could bite the hand that feeds it if it cuts existing levels of marketing by the Sun Valley Marketing Alliance. It will also make living and working in the valley a lot more difficult if it cuts funding for Mountain Rides.
The city’s problem is not the fact that the Ketchum Rural Fire District voted 2-1 to take its $325,000 contract, mostly for fire personnel, and award it to Sun Valley instead. It’s that the city’s wants are exceeding its needs.
Marketing keeps the Sun Valley name in front of a public that has endless choices of travel destinations. It helps keep the name from sliding into oblivion in the face of over-the-top marketing by larger and richer competing resorts.
It keeps local businesses as viable as they can be by helping to bring visitors to town. It fattens Ketchum’s coffers by around $2.7 million each year with revenue from local-option sales taxes.
It makes no sense to cut money out of Wagon Days, the city’s signature Labor Day event. It’s not just a non-motorized parade and celebration—it’s what keeps the busy summer season from ending suddenly in mid-August. Uninformed city officials should ask longtime residents what it was like before Wagon Days when business tanked after the second week in August.
In a community that already has a housing shortage, making it harder and more expensive for people to get to work makes little sense either. Neither does cutting Mountain Rides bus routes for the visitors whose purchases fund Ketchum’s operations.
None of it makes sense if money cut from needs goes to more guitar plucking in Town Square, brand new city commissions, more city employees and fatter public paychecks.
Marketing and transportation are basic needs for a community economy based on tourism. The city should build on these successes, not eviscerate them on a nutty theory that less funding will make no difference.