Last week, the city found itself in hot water after Salmon-A-Rama announced it may move its annual fishing tournament and festival because of a substantial increase in city fees.
The city fees were set to double from approximately $3,000 to $7,000.
For a nonprofit, or any organization, that is no small matter. It’s constantly a struggle to get sponsors for events. It takes a lot of door knocking and phone calls to financially make the events happen.
Then, there is the struggle to get volunteers. It’s all done to help raise money for good causes and help make the community a better place to live with fun activities to do.
But if you cannot net a profit, it makes it hard to justify all the work.
Fortunately, Salmon-A-Rama is not going to see its fees increase this year, it appears at this point. It turns out, the proposed 2019 fee increases never went to City Council for final approval, meaning they have not formally been put into place.
“Out of a sense of fairness and transparency for everybody, I think it’s really important that if (the Parks Department) wants to make those changes, those are really changes that the council should approve, ideally through the budget,” said Mayor Cory Mason.
But as Salmon-A-Rama Chairman Jim LaFortune pointed out, this is not really a victory.
“This isn’t a proposal that says, ‘Let’s make this right.’ It’s a proposal that says, ‘Let’s go back and cover our tracks,’ ” said LaFortune.
City officials need to start from scratch on this. They need to look at the current fees and hold a public hearing to receive feedback from the public, ideally before the next budget. The budget process is always very busy and there is a lot packed into those budget meetings. It would be best to give the public and local nonprofits a chance to talk just about this one issue and get it finalized before the next city budget.
City officials should also answer questions such as: How much more money will the fee increases generate? How much will the city generate if say a quarter of the events opt to go elsewhere because of the increase?
Fees should be revisited from time to time. They are important to talk about. But doubling them for an organization is too much.
The city is discussing a $50,000 study of how to make Monument Square more accessible to the public. Yet at the same time, they were willing to let the organizers of a successful event walk away. That doesn’t make sense. City officials should work harder to ensure good events continue in the city. Because if the city cannot work with those organizations, then the events will go away.