CAPC budget likely to finish 'in black'

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

City Advertising and Promotions Commissioners during last Wednesday night's budget workshop said that initial sales tax numbers through October have increased 7.1 percent, or $69,727, over last year and if the trend continues, CAPC's 2015 budget is "on track for in the black."

Finance Director Rick Bright said the CAPC budgeted $1,236,000 in revenue this year and that once the final numbers are reconciled, he expects this year's income to top the $1.3 million mark if collections finish this year as strong as they have been.

Executive Director Mike Maloney gave an overview of the $1.3 million budgeted for 2016 that included a partnership with the Arkansas Film Commission to attract southern California filmmakers to the town, tailoring online content to the LGBT market and developing user-friendly apps and seeking out sponsorships to attract popular musicians to the festivals.

Markets

Maloney said the CAPC has "seen some positive results" because it stuck to its 2015 plan of branching out into the digital market. He also reported that for 2016, the CAPC will focus on native editorial content that is tailored to the LGBT market and on creating short videos to enhance print content. Website maintenance costs increased from $5,000 to $10,000 to support development of a new app tailored for LGBT and other niche markets.

"We are reaching people in millions. It's a lot of planning and additional work in terms of prep time but we can look at a dashboard and see how effective our digital campaign is working for us," Maloney said. "Today's society isn't seeking you out because of magazine ads but because of what they find on smartphones. We have to engage that."

Advertising will focus on the Little Rock and Kansas City television markets as well as three or four markets in the Tulsa area.

The airport advertising expense stayed the same at $4,800, which is the CAPC's share of a cost split with other Northwest Arkansas cities to pay for a full-time contractor who distributes visitors guides at the Northwest Arkansas Regional Airport.

"We have tested them and the first thing they do is mention Eureka Springs when they greet people," CAPC Chairman Charles Ragsdell said.

Festivals

Commissioners reported there was no change in festival expenses, which total $103,000 and include:

* May Festival of the Arts -- $6,000

* Bluegrass Festival -- $16,000

* Ozark Folk Festival -- $15,000

* Jazzy Weekend -- $16,000

* Christmas Festival -- $5,000

* Music in the Park -- $20,000

* Classical Music Festival -- $15,000

Private funding for the Classical Music Festival came from donations from three people and a state grant and the Community Development Partnership "holding those funds," Ragsdell reported. Bright said that Maloney budgeted in a staff person to focus on getting scholarships for festivals.

James DeVito said he thinks the Bluegrass Festival dates need to be moved because they "are going up against the most established bluegrass festival in the state in Harrison and it's a mistake to schedule them on the same weekend."

Bright said that Jazzy Weekend is a specific market and he would rather see the CAPC spend less money on a festival in the park.

"I don't want to see festivals go away but if we could get sponsors to bring in big acts and not have to bite a big loss, it would help," he said.

DeVito said this year's act "was more like an average musician would like," while Ragsdell commented that it would take an additional $50,000 to draw national headliners for Jazzy Weekend.

"What used to be $20,000 acts are $200,000 acts now. It's harder to get national acts to play major venues until they are on their way down," Ragsdell said.

"A lot has changed in 10 years as far as music venues that surround us," DeVito said.

Commissioners also reported that John Hammond is signed to play the second Saturday in April and Commissioner Damon Henke said he would like to see more consistent programming in Basin Park on Saturdays.

Group travel

Group travel expenses remained static at $65,000, according to Maloney and Bright. Maloney said over 300 buses came through town according to the Great Passion Play, which he said"has seen a nice resurgence of bus activity."

Henke suggested that the CAPC hold a group travel workshop to hammer out the numbers.

"None of us really know where group travel is headed," he said.

Henke said he would feel more comfortable if the commission added another $10,00 to the $20,000 for marketing support.

Ragsdell said one of the CAPC's major complaints comes from customers who say that group travel doesn't generate "enough actionable leads," and the system could use some fine-tuning.

DeVito said the commission needs to look at the future of group bus tours and that the future of group travel has to be targeted to arts and culture events.

"People don't pack buses and say, 'let's go see the Ozarks' anymore. One member said he only had two groups in his hotel and both were for art tours," he said.

The Auditorium and staffing

Bright told the Citizen that the CAPC has five full-time employees. Two part-time employees work at the Auditorium and the commission pays a full-time Auditorium sound and light contract employee.

"There is no bonus program in place above a normal salary other than the occasional $50 Christmas bonus the mayor usually gives each full-time employee," he said.

Commissioners reported there were "no overall increases in the six CAPC salaries," which were budgeted for $250,290 for 2015 and $260,290 for 2016. Those figures do not include a part-time position they said was filled last year.

Salaries did not increase in the 2016 budget, Bright said in an email to the Citizen.

"The $10,000 increase is due to an increase in health insurance and state unemployment tax as well as one employee signing up for retirement benefits," Bright said.

He said the city matches up to 5 percent of an employee's retirement contribution.

"Health insurance rates increased $830 for each employee and state unemployment tax increased $96 per employee," he said. Commissioners are looking for a full-time event coordinator at a salary of $36,000 annually with benefits.

Auditorium operation expenses decreased from $38,000 to $20,000 because they dropped a part-time position. Auditorium event income remained at $25,000, concession income at $15,000 and auditorium "other income" stayed at $9,000, totaling $49,000, according to the budget.

CAPC said the $70,000 reserves will remain off-limits and that interest on accounts increased significantly since changing from Cornerstone to Community First Bank in January.

"Interest is on all accounts and last year it was $380.86. So far this year it's $1,411.88," Bright told the Citizen.

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