2014 fireworks, others take a hit
The adoption of the Fiscal Year 2013-14 Town budget concluded not with a bang but with a whimper, as Councilmembers, with the exception of John Eastman, accepted all balancing recommendations to close the projected $371,146 budget shortfall.
Balancing measures included a $160,000 reduction to Road Rehab funding; elimination of the $34,650 2014 Fourth of July fireworks show, to be replaced by a $5,000 POPS in the Park and $5,000 Town-wide, multi-day celebration; abolition of the Chamber of Commerce by folding it into Mammoth Lakes Tourism; and a delay to the Police Station remodel. Altogether, Town staff projects these cuts and others listed within the budget documents, will save $371,650, effectively balancing the budget.
However, Town Manager Marianna Marysheva-Martinez (MMM) noted the Town will still face fiscal pressures over the next five years because of a previously defunded Whitmore Pool subsidy and parks maintenance position, as well as the loss of more than $100,000 in Community Economic Development grants to support staff. The Town must therefore continue making about $100,000 of the proposed balancing measures, she explained, as well as identify annual funding of at least $300,000 beginning in FY 2014-15 to help cover Whitmore Pool.
Cutting the Fourth of July fireworks show at Crowley Lake remained the most controversial of the six balancing recommendations. Local Donnette Huselton questioned whether Town staff and Council had considered the long-term economic impact of canceling the show, which brings many families to the Mammoth area during the Fourth of July holiday.
“We typically think about things before we implement,” replied MMM.
She added, “A lot of businesses close for the Fourth of July because nobody is here.”
Mayor Rick Wood argued that Town funding should go toward Fourth of July events in town, and that perhaps Mono County could help fund the show at Crowley.
Council Member Matthew Lehman disagreed, calling the fireworks show “an important event for us, and at this time, a morale booster.” He suggested looking to private donations as well as County funding, and if these fundraising efforts still fell short of the need, pulling additional funding from the Reserve for Economic Uncertainty (REU).
The REU became a hot topic during discussion, with Council Member John Eastwood arguing that the Town should stabilize the budget using about $278,000 of the $2 million fund. “I would submit that it is the job of a municipality to provide services more than it is to maintain a savings account,” he said.
Council Member Lehman respectfully disagreed. “Unfortunately, if we do not address these [issues] now, what happens when we have an additional $300,000 shortfall next year?” he asked. He suggested that Council approve the budget, but assess the budget mid-year, as it did this past Fiscal Year. Should staff find overages, he said, Town would reallocate funds. This could potentially take the Fourth of July fireworks show off the chopping block.
Councilmember Jo Bacon opposed using any REU funds to cover the shortfall. “Not making these cuts gets us back into the same structural deficiency we’ve been talking about for years,” she said. “[And] a 10% REU is still dangerously low.”
Voting to approve the FY 2013-14 budget, Mayor Wood said, “This will be the first of many times, I think, that we say ‘no’ to the community.” The motion passed 4-1.