Council wants Fall Festival financials before giving money to Chamber

The Devine City Council signaled that a clearer picture of Chamber of Commerce financials is needed before disbursing taxpayer funds to help support the upcoming Fall Festival.

Council voted unanimously at the Special meeting last Tuesday, August 10 to direct City Administrator John Vidaurri to send the Chamber board a letter requesting information on how City funds have been used for recent Fall Festivals and how the Chamber plans to utilize the $5,000 requested this year.
“By all means, I do feel that the Chamber and the City should be united as one and that we should all come together and support the Chamber in every way that we can,” District 3 Councilman David Espinosa said. “With that said, we have requested financial papers from the Chamber [before], and correct me if I’m wrong, have we received that yet at all?”
City Secretary Dora Rodriguez said the City hasn’t received financial information from the Chamber.
“Not for all of the Chamber, just the Fall Festival, which is where this money is being [spent],” Thompson clarified.
Money distributed to the Chamber comes from the City’s Hotel/Motel Tax Fund, which Vidaurri said currently has around $5,600. Those funds can only be used for tourism and things that promote the City, such as the Fall Festival.
“We have that, but I also remind everyone here that we pay our membership to Go Medina [County] out of that fund as well,” Thompson said, “and that membership is going to be $4,300.”
Thompson also said that the City provides a lot of man-hours to assist with the Fall Festival in addition to its monetary contributions.
Former City Financial Advisor Mary Badillo said in a September 2017 Council meeting that City employees who assisted with the 2016 Fall Festival were paid close to $5,000 of overtime. That year the City gave the Chamber $10,000 for the Festival, bringing its contribution close to $15,000 (see “Devine City Council joins Go Medina County, disburses money to Chamber” in the Sept. 17, 2017 ed. of The Devine News).

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District 2 Councilwoman Angela Pichardo suggested getting a line item budget of how the Chamber plans to use City funds given recent oversight issues with how those funds are used (see “Council rescinds Chamber funds after allegations” in the December 23, 2020 ed. of the News).
“That way we know exactly what we’re contributing and what is getting paid and how it’s getting paid out,” Pichardo said.
A motion by Pichardo and District 4 Councilwoman Kathy Lawler to direct Vidaurri to send the Chamber a letter asking for financial statements from recent Fall Festivals, as well as how requested funds will be used this year, passed 5-0 with the support of District 1 Councilman Rufino “Flipper” Vega, District 5 Councilwoman Debra Randall, and Espinosa.
The next Council meeting was scheduled for press night on Tuesday, Aug. 17.
By Marly Davis
Staff Writer