An appeal for tourism taxes to pay the full cost of the city’s Independence Day fireworks exhibit failed as commissioners said Alderman Carol Johnson must continue to solicit the community to help fund the event.
The city’s two motels collect more than $90,000 a year in tourism taxes, which are administered by the appointed tourism commission to attract visitors to the city.
The commission anticipates receiving $93,000 in tourism tax revenue next year, according to its draft budget.
Added to the present fund balance of $125,000 and $85,000 in a contingency fund, the commission has $303,162 in available tourism funds.
Commissioners fielded requests for the tourism tax money at its May 7 meeting.
Present at the meeting were Chair Dennis Oliver, Bill McLaren, Ricky Patel and Herb Adams, aldermanic liaison.
The budget includes funds to promote Pacific Partnership events, the Tri-County Senior Center 5K run, Downtown Merchants parades, replacement of veterans signs in Liberty Field and money for annual Independence Day fireworks show.
The full amount of each request, except the fireworks, was granted and included in the budget.
The biggest pot went to the Pacific Partnership’s request for $37,600, which included $16,000 to promote its car show, Sunset on the Rails, and Christmas on the Plaza; $4,000 for Monsterfest; and $17,600 to help organize the city’s Iron Horse Rodeo.
The funds were awarded on a verbal request from Stephen Flannery III, Partnership president, who said his organization operates with a $60,000 budget. The Missourian asked for a copy of the Partnership budget, but at press time had not received it.
Also included in the tourism budget is $1,000 for the Chamber of Commerce; $1,500 for the senior center run; $3,000 for the Downtown Business Associations parades; and $15,000 to replace faded Liberty Field veterans’ plaques.
Veterans walk founder Pat Smiley originally solicited funds to install the plaques, but when it became obvious that they could no longer be read the city assumed responsibility to replace them so Smiley would not have to solicit funds.
The city requested $15,000 to replace the first section of plaques and the request was fully funded.
Johnson requested $10,000, which is the cost of the fireworks exhibit, but the commission granted her $6,500, requiring her to collect $3,500 from area individuals and businesses.
For the past 18 years, Johnson has solicited funds from area businesses and individuals to help pay for the annual Independence Day celebration.
The event originally was held in the city park, but the Pacific Partnership persuaded Johnson to move it to the Blackburn Park bluff as a finale to the car show.
Some observers see the fireworks exhibit as another Partnership event.
Tourism Commission Chair Dennis Oliver said he does not like fireworks and Commissioner Bill McLaren said he does not want to stop individuals and businesses from donating to the exhibition.
Adams made an impassioned plea for the commission to take full ownership of the fireworks show, which is a city of Pacific event. He said the city has relied on Johnson to raise funds for the fireworks for too long.
“This is a city event,” he said. “We should stop thinking about this as Carol Johnson’s event.
Adams said, as a former mayor, he had persuaded Johnson to move the fireworks to be part of the car show, which was the right thing to do.
“It does help with the car show because people stay downtown to see the fireworks and that helps businesses like Brown Jerry’s, the Brew House and D’Angelos,” he said.
Adams also said the commission should consider making the fireworks show bigger, but at the very least should pay for the entire event to relieve Johnson of the solicitation chores.
Oliver and McLaren both said no.
“I don’t like fireworks,” said Oliver, noting in recent years the commission has required recipients of tourism funds to “have skin in the game” for their event — meaning they must pay a portion of the cost of the event.
He said giving Johnson $6,500 leaves only $3,500 as her “skin in the game.”
At a previous meeting, Oliver compared City Clerk Kim Barfield working two days at the rodeo gate as the city’s skin in the game for the $17,600 in tourism funds allocated to the rodeo.
After being pressed by Adams, the commission said they would place $5,000 in a miscellaneous account and if Johnson did not raise the entire $3,500 they would fund the fireworks show to the full $10,000.
Adams said he sees the arrangement as a partial victory.
“Maybe we are a step closer to getting the entire $10,000 funded next year,” he said.