Thursday, October 5, 2000
Steamboat Springs "Call me Scrooge," Councilwoman Arianthe Stettner said as she moved to cut the July Fourth fireworks funding during a city budget retreat. "But I just don't want to see our money go up in smoke."
Funding for Chamber Resort Association marketing wasn't the only item cut or reduced from the community support budget by the City Council Tuesday. The July Fourth fireworks show, Human Resource Coalition and the summer concert series, in addition to a number of other items, all had their 2001 budget requests reduced. Others, like the Humble Ranch Education and Therapy Center and Routt County Habitat for Humanity, suffered utter elimination. Some were lumped into other foundations' budgets. In total, the council cut $271,125 from community support requests for 2001, dropping the support figure to $1,483,204.
The fireworks budget, slashed 33 percent from $15,000 to $10,000 after a good deal of debate, has been subsidized at a level of $15,000 and above for the past three years.
"I'm sure if the city decides to fund it at a lower amount, the community wil take a look at it and try to fund the fireworks," said John Kerst, the president of First National Bank. Kerst has helped lead the private sector's efforts to support the fireworks in the past.
City Council President Kevin Bennett pushed for funding the program at $15,000, arguing that the fireworks display is a big draw for summer tourists and a major community event.
"I think they're important to the Fourth of July and the celebration," Bennett said.
However, other council members, including Stettner and Council President Pro Tem Kathy Connell, were hesitant about funding what Connell dubbed "gravy items." Among those gravy items was the free summer concert series, a combination of the former Downtown Concert Series and Mountain Concert Series. That series, which featured such popular acts as Maceo Parker this summer, had its request dropped from $30,000 to $25,000.
"We all love those kinds of performances, but they also have private sponsorship," Connell said. "If we're going to cut necessary services, we've got to cut the play items, too."
Councilman Paul Strong objected to the cut, which he believes impacts a demographic too often overlooked by the city.
"The younger demographic in the city doesn't get a lot of the things out of community support," he said. "The summer concert series is one of the few things that does represent that demographic."
The Human Resources Coalition, which represents an amalgamation of almost 30 social service groups, also received less than it requested. It received $130,000, which is more than what it got this fiscal year, but less than its $153,500 request.
The coalition supports some of the most visible of the not-for-profit groups in Routt County, including the Visiting Nurse Association and Routt County United Way.
"It's dissapointing that again health and human services isn't keeping pace with the growth of the community," said VNA Executive Director Sue Birch. "This is the group that really makes up the fabric of our community, in terms of not-for profit service groups."
At the suggestion of Councilman Jim Engleken, the city provided the VNA with $20,000 with which to leverage a grant to build new office space by the new Yampa Valley Medical Center. Though the VNA had originally requested $200,000 for this endeavor, the City Council was unwilling to even consider that amount. Even the $20,000 expenditure became a contentious issue.
The HRC relies on city money to supplement what Birch believes are inadequate state and federal funds. Birch said that the coalition might have to cut a number of items, including programs for seniors and for South Routt, both of which are already underfunded.
To reach Avi Salzman call 871-4203 or e-mail email@example.com