Coastal Voices: Ask city to support Chamber of Commerce

By Mary Foote July 04, 2012 04:48 pm

On behalf of the Board of Directors for the Crescent City/Del Norte County Chamber of Commerce, I want to make you aware of the current budget discussions the City of Crescent City is having and how it affects your Chamber.

The Chamber receives funds from the city and the county for the operation of the Visitors Center and the Visitors Bureau. In addition, the city helps to fund the Fourth of July fireworks.  In total, the city contributes $87,000 annually to the Chamber, broken down as follows:

• Visitor Center, $36,000

• Fireworks, $11,000

• Visitor Bureau, $40,000

The city manager’s 2013 budget proposal to the City Council lumps together these three contributions, and subsequently reduces the annual commitment to $50,000. This would equate to a loss of $37,000; roughly a 40 percent decrease.

I spoke at the city’s June 18 Council meeting on behalf of the Chamber.  It was conveyed that the Chamber would not be able to keep existing programs operating if the budget were reduced by 40 percent. I suggested that a 10 percent cut would be manageable and still allow for the Chamber to provide essential services.

The City Council agreed on  a 3-2 to scrap the proposed 40 percent cut following Councilwoman Schellong’s motion to only reduce total contributions to the Chamber by $10,000. However, we have learned that the decision may change at the next City Council meeting as the Council needs to discover more funding reductions to maintain its reserves at “desirable levels.”

The Chamber understands these are difficult times for our city and our local businesses. However, we believe it is not the answer to cut spending to those essential services that help bring over $104.4 million dollars a year in direct travel spending to our local economy.

In 2010, $1.6 million in local sales tax receipts were generated by travel spending. Is the answer to jeopardize the 1,590 travel-related jobs in our community?  Since 2001, transient occupancy tax revenue has increased by 9.4 percent in Del Norte County, from $699,000 to $1,210,000, even though the city contribution continues to decrease. The Chamber and the Visitors Bureau are transparent and responsible with our city dollars, and we have demonstrated a return on the investment of public funds. (Dean Runyan California Travel Impacts by County, April 2012).

Tourism and the services the Chamber provides to support tourism in our community are essential. We market to bring our next new visitor here with the services of the Visitors Bureau and keep them here with the services that the Visitors Center provides.

Our community’s Fourth of July fireworks display is now known from Vancouver to San Francisco, growing from humble beginnings to an event that draws an estimated 25,000 people. Today’s edition of the Triplicate is rich with activities about the upcoming Fourth of July holiday.  Next year this activity may change substantially or disappear altogether. Our city’s investment of public funds has shown its worth and it is time our city recognizes the importance it plays in its own budget.

On behalf of the Chamber Board, I am asking each of you to help campaign for our Chamber’s survival. Can you please be present at the Monday (June 2) Council meeting beginning at 6 p.m. to help support the Chamber’s position to continue providing essential services to the community?

Please share with our city your thoughts on these important services, events and marketing we do for our entire community! Thank you for your support.

Mary Foote is the president of the Crescent City/Del Norte County Chamber of Commerce.