Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Chamber budget cuts could impact events

Budget reduced by nearly $60,000

Express Staff Writer

Community events that receive the majority of their sponsorship from the Sun Valley-Ketchum Chamber & Visitors Bureau could be in jeopardy after the chamber lost $58,000 from its budget last week.

Looking to bring its expenditures in line with declining revenues, the city of Ketchum reduced its funding of the organization by 16 percent, for a total of $291,000 for fiscal 2009. That's $126,000 less than the chamber received from Ketchum in 2008.

The chamber's budget also includes $321,000 from the city of Sun Valley and about $135,000 from membership dues.

Chamber Executive Director Carol Waller said that as a result, the organization has reduced costs by not filling a staff position vacant since November, and by reducing salaries and benefits. She said those actions would save $50,000. The chamber has reduced its staff from 10 employees to eight since last year.

As well, Waller said about $7,000 is being saved in overhead and administration, and that marketing will also decrease.

"It's tough economic times for everyone," Waller said. "But it's important that we continue to market our destination if we want to keep bringing in visitors to fuel the economy."

For many local residents, most worrying is the potential impact these cuts could have on events such as Ketch'em Alive.

Waller said the summer concert series, which takes place in Ketchum's Forest Service Park, used to receive $14,000 in funding from the chamber, but that this summer the organization would only be able to give $3,000.

Other community events that could likely face financial trouble are the Ketchum Wide Open mini-golf tournament, July's 4th on Fourth Celebration and Ketchum Downtown Holidays.

"These events will still happen, but additional sponsorship and outside support will be needed to produce them at the same level as in the past, or else they will be scaled back," Waller wrote in a press release.

Waller said major visitor events, such as the Sun Valley Food & Wine Festival and the Ernest Hemingway Festival, will have their budgets and programs trimmed as well.

While the chamber will continue marketing special deals, events and activities to potential visitors, Waller said, a decrease in advertising funding would be another blow to the local economy.

"We have to be competitive in reminding people that we're a good option," she said.

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