Rochester updated its special events ordinance in March 2017, in an attempt to recapture large expenditures by the city in assisting special events held by non-profit organizations throughout the year. At the time, city officials estimated Rochester had spent more than $175,000 from 2013 through 2015 to support special events, including costs related to the use of city property and support services. Rochester Police Chief Steve Schettenhelm at the time said about $8,500 in services is used each year to support the city's annual Christmas parade and about $18,500 annually to support the Paint Creek Center for the Arts Art and Apples event.
In an attempt to recoup costs, city council elected to increase the amount non-profit organizations must reimburse the city. The increase, which this publication supported at the time, raised the reimbursement rate from 10 percent over the first $1,000 provided by the city to 75 percent over the first $100 in services provided by the city. The policy isn't out of line with those of many neighboring communities, and is appropriate as the city grapples with financial restraints that force tough budget decisions for other needs in the city. Further, the increased fees didn't go into effect until January 1, 2018, giving non-profits concerned with the increases time to plan for increases, which some said could prove to be a hardship.
Despite attempts to plan for the increases, representatives from both the Paint Creek Center for the Arts and the Greater Rochester Regional Chamber's Foundation, which sought sponsorships for the parade, requested on Monday, April 23, that council lower the percentage non-profits must contribute to 50 percent, with increases phased in over two years, stating the increase has been a hardship – and that the events were in jeopardy.
City council members, hearing that, as well as the potential to impact some of the other estimated 100 annual non-profit events held in the city, obliged the request, and voted unanimously to amend the fees. Under the new fee schedule, all non-profits will need to pay 25 percent of all costs the city incurs over the first $100 in 2018, and 50 percent of costs over $100 in 2019 and beyond.
While we supported the initial fee increases passed in 2017, we understand the concerns non-profits are experiencing. The adjusted fee schedule is a fair compromise, and will still provide the city with recoupable expenses, while not threatening events that are a valuable asset to the city.
Yet, non-profits must realize that events are very costly for communities to host as well. They must reciprocate with transparency by offering financial records on the organization and event when making requests to the city. They may find their openness will be met with more receptiveness in return.