A budget request to spend almost $2.9 million of over $8 million collected in local option tourist development tax, for cultural heritage and cultural arts programs including historic reenactments, museum programs and performing and visual arts programs, will come before the Tourist Development Council on Monday afternoon.
If passed, almost half of the total budget, $1,477,745, will be used simply to fund shortfall, contingency and capital outlay reserves; and, of the remaining $1,399,391, only $550,000 is earmarked for actual grants to the non-profit organizations that produce the events.
“If a non-profit, charitable organization, like the ones who jump through so many hoops to receive this vital funding, reported this high an overhead-to-deliverables ratio, I doubt they could maintain their tax-exempt status for very long,” Historic City News editor Michael Gold surmised. “This entire category of funding is being mismanaged, in my opinion, and the funding process has degenerated from bad to worse.”
Gold was referring to the fact that the majority of the budget will be spent on overhead — items like; about $29,000 to rent and insure a privately owned building (up 5% over last year), $165,000 in “professional fees” (up 113% over last year), and over $185,000 in “consulting” and “contractual services”. The single largest expense is a budget for advertising — $425,000 (down 14% over last year) in addition to the budget for marketing St Johns County as a destination; funded under a different category.
Further examples include an $8,000 budget needed to attend tradeshows and conventions plus another $6,500 for travel and per-diem expenses and $3,000 to pay for dues and memberships. Arts, Culture, and Heritage also expects to require $5,000 for outside “public relations” plus another $2,500 for “in-house public relations”, despite the fact that the division contracts with, and pays, the St Johns Cultural Council to provide similar publicity and has salaried employees funded from another category.
If the Tourist Development Council passes this proposed budget, it must be sent to the Board of County Commissioners for approval.
If you plan to attend, the meeting of the St Johns County Tourist Development Council will be held on Monday, August 26, 2013 at 1:30 p.m. in the County Auditorium at the St Johns County Administrative Palace located at 500 San Sebastian View in St Augustine. The meeting is open to the public and public comments may be made in accordance with the agenda.