BCTF funds: JSDC ponders end to funds for Buffalo City TourismThe Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corp. Board of Directors will recommend to local governments that the Buffalo City Tourism Foundation get $75,000 in grants to distribute to nonprofits in 2013.
By: Kari Lucin, The Jamestown Sun
The Jamestown/Stutsman Development Corp. Board of Directors will recommend to local governments that the Buffalo City Tourism Foundation get $75,000 in grants to distribute to nonprofits in 2013.
The recommendation still needs to go before the Jamestown City Council and Stutsman County Commission for approval.
A second issue — incrementally cutting all JSDC’s funding for the BCTF over four years — was tabled for the JSDC Board’s next meeting.
About 20 visitors, many of them vocal supporters of the BCTF, attended the meeting.
“Whatever tourism has done for just our group alone has been huge, and to me, if I’ve started a business and it proves to be successful after eight years, it’d be pretty foolish to quit,” said Marlyn Bertsch of the James River Rodeo, which has received grant money from the BCTF.
The JSDC Executive Board had recommended denying the $75,000 in grant money to the BCTF, and had also recommended eliminating the portion of the Tourism Foundation’s funding that comes from the JSDC.
According to a projected budget for the Tourism Foundation, that operations funding would have been $137,000 in 2013, $141,110 in 2014, $145,343 in 2015 and $149,703 in 2016.
Those figures do not include the $75,000 for grants that the JSDC gives to the Tourism Foundation for distribution on an annual basis.
They also do not include the Tourism Foundation’s revenue received from lodging and restaurant taxes. The revenue projections are for $231,650 in 2013, $239,185 in 2014, $248,750 in 2015 and $260,560 in 2016.
“(Tourism)’s considered by the state of North Dakota to be a vital part of economic development,” said Dave Smette, BCTF president. “I’m positive that you will agree that the return on investment in tourism is apparent in our community.”
Smette said the BCTF has brought in an estimated $71 million in economic impact to the community since its creation in 2004.
Halting BCTF funding would mean savings for the JSDC, said Connie Ova, JSDC chief executive officer.
In April 2010 the Jamestown City Council cut the JSDC’s revenue from sales taxes in Jamestown in half, setting aside that money for the city’s share of special assessments on public works projects.
Jamestown Mayor Katie Andersen raised concerns about the $75,000 in grant money the BCTF distributes to nonprofits, stating she believed under some circumstances, they could potentially be used to help nonprofits compete with for-profit businesses.
Andersen gave the theoretical example of an ice cream social event, which would bring people to town — which is the purpose of the grants to the nonprofits — but could also cut into the profits of local businesses selling ice cream.
Some members of the JSDC board were also concerned about the BCTF’s reserved funds, which include $186,860.73 in reserves, $51,794.22 in its capital improvement fund and $31,419.80 in its new project fund, all as of Feb. 1.
The reserve fund is set aside for use in case a disaster occurs and tax revenue drops, leaving insufficient funds for the BCTF to operate, said Scott Hare, BCTF treasurer.
The new project fund would be for any new attraction coming to Jamestown, or for building a new tourism site.
Another concern the JSDC board had with the BCTF is that its board members are appointed, not elected.
The JSDC board is composed of two members of the Stutsman County Commission, two members of the Jamestown City Council and the chairman of the board of the Jamestown Area Chamber of Commerce, as well as 10 board members elected by the existing board members.
Both Bertsch and Felicia Sargeant, director of the National Buffalo Museum, emphasized that the BCTF’s grant awarding process was stringent and required details of the organizations requesting the money, both before and after the grant money was used.
Alex Schweitzer, president of the JSDC Board, stated he believed the BCTF was initially intended to be self-supporting, and also said he believed the JSDC should focus on the “primary sector,” which would not include tourism.
Sun reporter Kari Lucin can be reached at 701-952-8453
or by email at email@example.com