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Requests for public dollars from five tourism events met with varying levels of support from the Williamsburg City Council at its Monday work session.
Five events are asking for financial support from the City of Williamsburg’s $184,000 tourism promotion contingency fund, which is included in City Manager Jack Tuttle’s proposed budget for next year.
Last year the city created the $250,000 fund to help boost local events and campaigns that would encourage visitation to the Williamsburg area. The city is carrying over the $184,000 not used in the current budget year.
In fiscal year 2015, which ends June 30, three events tapped into the fund. The city gave $50,000 for the Muscarelle Museum of Art’s Leonardo da Vinci exhibit; $10,000 for the Fall 2015 Harvest Festival startup; and $6,000 for the inaugural Winter Blues Jazz Festival.
The city has thus far received requests from five organizations seeking support in fiscal year 2016, which begins July 1:
- The Virginia Arts Festival requested a one-time allocation of $50,000 to support the 2016 Festival Williamsburg, which coincides with the VAF’s 20th anniversary.
- The Virginia Symphony is seeking $65,000 to stage the Independence Day Virginia Symphony concert at the Governor’s Palace. The Colonial Williamsburg Foundation has funded the concert in the past, but does not plan to do so this year.
- The Williamsburg Hotel/Motel Association asked the city to participate in the GoWilliamsburg Visitor Guide by sponsoring a pullout map that features city businesses and attractions at a cost of $20,000.
- First Night of Williamsburg, which organizes New Year’s events in Williamsburg, asked for city assistance, but did not specify a specific contribution. The organization is seeking $50,000 from several funding partners to boost its dwindling $5,000 cash reserves.
- The Winter Blues Jazz Festival is seeking city assistance for a second multi-day event in the city next winter, but did not provide a specific dollar amount.
Tuttle recommended the City Council appropriate a total of $101,000 from the tourism promotion fund to the five organizations: $50,000 for Festival Williamsburg, $20,000 for the Virginia Symphony concert, $15,000 for First Night Williamsburg, $10,000 for the GoWilliamsburg Visitor Guide and $6,000 for the Winter Blues Jazz Festival.
A total of $83,000 would remain in the fund.
In its request for an additional $250,000 in city support on top of its $650,000 appropriation from the previous fiscal year, the Greater Williamsburg Chamber & Tourism Alliance suggested it would fund similar tourism-related events in the city.
Tuttle’s proposed budget maintains funding for the Alliance at $650,000 and does not currently include the Alliance among the recommended recipients for tourism contingency funds.
Deputy City Manager Jodi Miller said the five requests were the only ones the city received at this point, but others could be on the horizon.
The City Council reviewed the fiscal year 2016 requests for each of the events, and were generally in favor of using city funds to support First Night of Williamsburg and the Winter Blues Jazz Festival.
Mayor Clyde Haulman said First Night of Williamsburg was a city institution going through a transition period, and city funds could help it adapt.
Haulman also suggested the pullout map could be supported through the Economic Development Authority’s $250,000 contingency fund to support Williamsburg Businesses.
Council members were more skeptical of using local funds to support the Virginia Symphony concert in Colonial Williamsburg.
Councilman Doug Pons said the concert was a major part of Independence Day celebrations in Williamsburg, and he would like to see it continue, but questioned whether the city should be the primary sponsor.
The city annually provides $1.3 million to the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation for marketing purposes. Pons suggested reclassifying those dollars as “community development” funds.
“Maybe some of that $1.3 [million] could go to fund this activity,” Pons said.
Council members Scott Foster and Judy Knudson said the tourism promotion contingency fund should be used to support one-time and startup events, rather than recurring events.
Haulman said the fund had been used to support worthy events, and the city might be well served to consider transforming the one-time fund into a more permanent allocation.
The City Council will consider the requests for funding as it goes through its budget process for fiscal year 2016.
A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for April 9, with another scheduled for April 13. The City Council is expected to adopt its fiscal year 2016 budget at its May 14 meeting.