The Bishop City Council offered a sobering warning for Community Promotions funding applicants at the Oct. 28 City Council meeting at City Hall. “I think it’s really great that we have a Community Promotions budget,” said Council member Keith Glidewell; “I appreciate the efforts [applicants like] the Bishop Chamber and Visitors Center, Inyo Council for the Arts, and Laws Museum make, but I have reservations in that we’re passing a deficit budget this year. The question comes up, at what point do you say no?”
According to City Administrator Keith Caldwell, Bishop is currently looking at a projected deficit of about $500,000 for Fiscal Year 2014-15. Projections also estimate that the City General Fund balance would drop from about $1.6 million by the end of FY 2013-14 to $858,180 by the end of FY 2014-15. Because the Community Promotions fund comes from General Fund money, Council member Glidewell cautioned that the City may have to slash or altogether cut the fund in future fiscal years. “It’s just brass tacks facts that we won’t have the money to give away,” he said.
This year, Community Promotions applicants requested a total of $181,600 for FY 14-15, the same as the FY 13-14 request. The Bishop Chamber requested $143,000; Laws Museum $12,600; Inyo Council for the Arts $20,000; Senior Legal Program/California Indian Legal Services $1,000; and the Tri-County Fair $5,000. Former applicants Eastern Sierra Area Agency on Aging and Senior Recreational Program withdrew their applications for funding.
In spite of Council member Glidewell’s reservations, Mayor Pro-Tem Jim Ellis argued in favor of the Community Promotions fund. “For all of these [requests] I can attach a return on investment,” he said. “I see that we are making our money back in the partnerships we create with these organizations.” Mayor Laura Smith agreed that many of the applying programs are “intimately tied to” the two greatest sources of revenue to the City: Transient Occupancy Tax and Sales Tax. She concluded that while Council members remained in favor of approving the allocation for FY 14-15, potential cuts to the Community Promotions budget “is something to keep in the back of your budget mind,” she said.
“I feel kind of like a heavy,” Council member Glidewell added at the close of the meeting, “and I don’t like to come across that way. I agree with Council member Ellis, but if you don’t have money to invest, you don’t get to invest.” However, he added, “I want the community to know we’re working hard to find new sources of funding. We’re trying to do our best with a quickly shrinking budget.”
Yet City Administrator Caldwell was quick to point out that while staff has projected a deficit of about $500,000, “Last year, the City did not have to dip into its [General Fund] reserve, and it looks like this year we’ll have a balanced budget,” he said. The FY 14-15 budget could also come out balanced, he said. Nevertheless, “It’s really important that we begin to change the trend [of deficit projections],” he said. “We are currently looking at ways to make money, and to make a shift in how we do business.”
The Council and City staff has been considering changes to the way Bishop does business in a series of Budget Workshops and Hearings that began in August and continue into November. Some potential sources of revenue include leasing City property, installing parking permits or meters, outsourcing services, consolidating the City with the Rural Fire Department, developing a strategic economic plan, considering the formation of a Tourism Business Improvement District (TBID), installing a Chamber/Visitors Center events sign, and pursuing potential solar projects or energy cost saving measures.
Council members approved the FY 14-15 Community Promotions budget allocation 5-0. The next Budget Hearing will be conducted Nov. 14 from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. in the Executive Suite at City Hall.