Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Ketchum CDC feels pinch of revenue shortfall

Council considers lower funding

Express Staff Writer

Economic impacts from the Castle Rock Fire have affected funding for the newly created Ketchum Community Development Corporation.

During two days of 2007-2008 budget hearings last week, it became clear that a reduction in tourism caused by the fire will have a serious impact on local option taxes the city would have collected in August.

"The first two weeks of August weren't good," City Administrator Ron LeBlanc told the council on Thursday, Aug. 30. "Since the fire the bottom has dropped out of the retail market."

The Community Development Corporation is a relatively new non-profit organization formed in conjunction with the city to foster community projects such as the recently completed section of the Fourth Street Heritage Corridor. The group had been seeking $150,000 per year for the next several years to hire an executive director and fund five project teams. The organization's stated goal is to undertake projects whose economic benefits more than offset city funding and to eventually become self-sustaining through grants.

Though council members had supported the development corporation's request, during an Aug. 31 meeting they asked board members Dale Bates and Michael Carpenter if they could work with $105,000, and challenged them to come up with the remainder.

That did not sit well with board members. Bates said he was not sure he would want to continue with the CDC under that condition. He called the organization "not an expense but an investment," adding that the city created it to support the city's vision of the Downtown Master Plan.

"This is something you asked us to do," he said.

"Over the last two days we've asked everyone to make sacrifices," countered Councilman Ron Parsons.

"You shouldn't have to come to us and begged," Mayor Randy Hall said.

The council asked the board members to "work with us" and threw out the idea of possibly tapping the "poodle money"¾a reference to a recent $250,000 anonymous donation to the city through its police department, which had helped a couple find their misplaced vehicle with two poodles inside.

The Ketchum-Sun Valley Chamber & Visitors Bureau, which vies for some of the same monetary pie as the CDC, was funded to the tune of $416,000, a 3 percent reduction from last year's level.

A public hearing on the city's tentative budget was scheduled for the night of Tuesday, Sept. 4. Because of the Castle Rock Fire, Blaine County has given the city an extension until Sept. 17 to adopt a final budget.

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