As we go into our summer season, the world has changed, and so must we. We have two major issues to address: our financial position and our branding as a tourist town. If we do it right, each will complement the other.
Financial outlook eliminates discretionary spending
We are estimating a revenue shortfall of almost $1 million for the remainder of this fiscal year (which ends Sept. 30). We anticipate revenue reductions in property tax, state sales tax and our local-option tax. To offset our anticipated shortfall, we will have to take measures to reduce our expenses by a similar amount. Our focus will be on delivering basic municipal services and eliminating discretionary spending.
Funds are available only for basic municipal services
Our main priority is to keep the city operational. Core municipal functions and priority maintenance have to continue, but discretionary capital expenditures have to be delayed. This means that available funds must go to streets, safety, planning, water and waste. Parks operations must also continue and kids’ programs, while reduced to manage cost as well as the number of participants, will also continue.
Events significantly reduced
At a time when gatherings are discouraged and revenue is in decline, it makes little sense to spend on events. This year we have canceled Ketch’em Alive, Jazz in the Park and many other smaller events. Wagon Days will be greatly reduced with only the Big Hitch making an appearance. As a city, we have to lead by example on events and be fiscally prudent in our spending.
Branding: Nothing basic about our ‘basic’ rivers, mountains and open space
Events, gatherings, performances, arts and culture—a cornerstone of our appeal as a town in previous years—will take a backseat this year. We will see a return to what brought us here in the first place—the fresh air and the great outdoors. The mountains and the rivers attracted us here, kept us here and are intrinsic to what will help us through these unprecedented times. At our core, this will always be a place to enjoy the outdoors and the recreational opportunities that it offers. We need to go back to basics in the branding of this town and what nature provided us in the first place. This will serve us well this summer season. Sun and open space are the perfect antidotes to an epidemic, and we have both in abundance.
Not a place for a virus vacation—not a place to forget safe protocols
This summer we will see tourists come and go, and we will see second-home owners spend many months here—everyone is most welcome. They are welcome to support our local businesses and restaurants. They are welcome to enjoy the wilderness in our backyard. However, this is not a place for a virus vacation, not a place to escape the safe practices observed at home. Not a place to come when you are sick and not a place to disregard the fear that many new faces in town will bring. We will continue to remind visitors and residents alike that we all have a part to play in respecting the wishes of those around us through embracing safe and considerate protocols.
Our basic goal: A visitor who feels welcome and a resident who feels safe
The events may not be here this year and the gatherings may not happen, but the smiles will come in other ways. We will be closing down streets, we will be facilitating outdoor dining and we will be encouraging you to bring a picnic for Wagon Days. I also expect that our creative community will come up with new and innovative ways to safely enjoy our valley. Necessity is the mother of invention and I suspect many ideas will emerge that will far outlast this pandemic. This year, the formula may be different, but the result will be the same—a visitor who feels welcome and a resident who feels safe.
Neil Bradshaw is the mayor of Ketchum.