Covering special event costs a necessity

April 1, 2017

The old cliche that you have to spend money to make money was never truer than in today's non-profit world, where the cost of doing business continues to increase, all in an effort to raise money to help others.

In most municipalities, groups and organizations holding special events, whether for-profit or not, must provide reimbursement for services provided by police, fire and public works departments that are needed to support their events. Likewise, use of city parks or other property often comes with a price tag.

Until recently, the generous folks in Rochester, by way of taxes, allowed the city to foot much of the bill for special events held by non-profits in the community. However, an amendment to the city's special event ordinance, which passed on Monday, March 27, will increase the cost of doing business in the city for non-profit organizations.

While there's no doubt special events held by the city and non-profit organizations help businesses in the community and add value to a community, the cost to the city to support those events can be a burden. A significant one, if you judge from what it costs Rochester. From 2013 through 2015, the city estimates it spent about $178,633 to support the special events in the community. The city's police chief told city council members back in December that about $8,500 in city services are spent just to support the annual Christmas parade; $18,500 is spent annually for Arts and Apples.

Currently, the ordinance requires non-profits to reimburse the city for 10 percent of its special event costs, after the first $1,000 the city incurs. Under the amended ordinance, non-profits will be required to reimburse the city for 75 percent of costs, after the first $100.

Such a policy isn't out of line with those in many neighboring communities, and is an appropriate change as the city grapples with financial restraints that force tough budget decisions for other needs in the city.

We also feel the implementation date of when the amended ordinance goes into effect is appropriate, which is not until January 1, 2018. The delayed implementation allows non-profits holding special events to conduct business as usual through the end of this year, while still allowing adequate time to consider any changes they may need to undertake to meet their increased costs, including acquiring new sponsorship deals to help augment costs.

We understand the challenge some non-profits will face to conduct major event in the city, with increases of as much as $12,000 or more to the Paint Creek Center of the Arts, and $8,000 for the Greater Rochester Regional Chamber. However, we believe the value of the events to the community will enable those organizations and others to work to offset the additional costs, and continue to benefit from the events.

We also support city council's decision to enact the fees across the board, and not pick and choose events in which to support and those in which they won't. While such increases aren't always popular, and can be difficult to make, ultimately special events benefit the community as a whole.

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