City approves $2,500 contribution for Fall Festival

The Devine City Council unanimously approved a $2,500 contribution to the Chamber of Commerce for the 2021 Fall Festival during a Special meeting held last Tuesday, August 24.
Council approved the funding for this year’s Fall Festival after accepting a report from Chamber President Marcus Buckner regarding the use of the $2,500 the City contributed in 2019.
2019 financial report
Council initially considered the Chamber’s request for $5,000 during a Special meeting on Aug. 10, and voted to have City Administrator John Vidaurri send the organization a letter asking for information on how City funds had been spent for prior Fall Festivals before making a decision on what to do this year (see “Council wants Fall Festival financials before giving money to Chamber” in the Aug. 18 edition of The Devine News).
“The report by the financial secretary just said that we spent about $10,000 on entertainment,” Buckner said. “And so that’s where the dollars went.”
Mayor Cory Thompson noted that the City’s donation to the Chamber comes from the Hotel/Motel Tax Fund, which can only be used in ways that promote the City and encourage tourism.
Buckner said some money was spent on posters, banners, and newspaper advertising, as well as on branded merchandise.
“Right here, I’ve got supplies, merchandise, and that equaled about $5,800,” Buckner said. “One of the things we’d probably say is that we did t-shirts in 2019, which is an advertising piece, and we will reuse those this year, basically advertise the city as we walk around.”
District 5 Councilwoman Debra Randall asked if things like posters and t-shirts were eligible uses of HOT tax money, and City Attorney Tom Cate said they were.
Buckner said he wants to put money into digital advertising this year to spread the word about the Fall Festival outside of the bubble of Devine.
“We didn’t even boost anything in 2019 but we got tons of shares, tons of people,” Buckner said. “We had a lot of traction.”
A motion by Randall and District 4 Councilwoman Kathy Lawler to accept the Chamber report passed 4-0 with the support of District 2 Councilwoman Angela Pichardo and District 3 Councilman David Espinosa. District 1 Councilman Rufino “Flipper” Vega was absent.
2021 request
Council packets included a spreadsheet showing City expenses for the 2019 Fall Festival were $16,272.01, the majority of which was overtime paid to employees who assisted the Chamber before, during, and after the event.
The City’s total cost for the 2019 Fall Festival, including the $2,500 cash contribution to the Chamber, was $18,772.01.
Thompson expressed frustration with the idea that the City doesn’t help enough with the Fall Festival, and Pichardo suggested that the work done by Public Works and the Police Department be recognized during the Festival itself, which Chamber Board member Sandy Herrera confirmed is something that is already done.
Discussion then turned to the amount of money in the City’s HOT tax fund., which was between $7,000 and $8,000. In addition to money contributed to the Chamber, the City pays its yearly dues to economic development group Go Medina County from the HOT fund. Those dues are $4,350 a year, or one dollar per City resident.
“I’m concerned about $5,000 instead of $2,500,” Lawler said. “I know we didn’t give any last year because [the Festival] didn’t happen. But with as tight as everything is, and I’d guess the City costs will be at least $16,000, if not more – that’s why I’m thinking I’d rather look at $2,500.
“I totally agree we need to help, and I think it’s a very good project.”
Herrera said that the Chamber Board was discussing the possibility of canceling this year’s Fall Festival because of the ongoing surge in COVID-19 cases, and Buckner said hand sanitizing stations could be installed, as well as signage reminding Festival-goers that they are attending at their own risk.
“SeaWorld actually has a really good one and we’re going to try to copy that one,” Buckner said. “Basically what they’re saying is ‘Hey, look, we can’t protect you, you’re in a public space.’ I think people understand that.”
A Randall-Espinosa motion to contribute $2,500 to the Chamber for the 2021 Fall Festival passed 4-0.
By Marly Davis
Staff Writer