The Greater Oro Valley Chamber of Commerce will receive $30,000 in funding from the town after the fiscal year 2013-2014 budget was adopted by council in a 5-2 vote on May 15.
That’s an increase of $5,000 from last year, and more than the $25,000 requested by the chamber’s CEO Dave Perry.
During budget discussions at town hall, Councilman Mike Zinkin’s call to cut chamber funding to $11,500 was rebutted by Mayor Satish Hiremath, who argued for the increase that would ultimately find a majority vote.
According to Hiremath, the chamber is deserving of additional funding because doing so supports the town’s overall goals under the Strategic Plan to enhance General Fund revenues.
“The vote to support the Strategic Plan was unanimous, and now you have individual council members who are being hypocritical of what was voted on,” said Hiremath.
Hiremath said supporting the chamber with additional funding will benefit taxpayers in the long run. “The chamber creates a larger General Fund we can pull from, which helps create more services, and further maintain our parks, public safety, and roads,” he said. “When you talk logically about sales tax, name me one organization that does as much for small businesses as the chamber does – you can’t name one. It’s time to put our money where our mouth is to make us more successful and reduce the burden of expenses on town residents.”
Alternatively, Zinkin thinks an increase of chamber funding equates to an increased burden on the general taxpayer, and therefore feels it should be the members of the chamber who ultimately support the organization.
Last year, Zinkin supported the full request of $25,000 from the chamber, but says that was only to help get the organization on its feet – a notion Hiremath contests was the desire only of the minority of council.
Chamber funding had been cut prior to Perry’s arrival due to the fact the organization had engaged in political favoritism.
Now, Zinkin says the chamber has recovered from those times.
“The chamber is no longer in the dire straights like it was,” said Zinkin. “It’s time we back off and let the members take care of it.”
Councilman Joe Hornat said in a recent council meeting that reducing funding would be bad for morale, particularly considering the chamber’s progress with the Oro Valley Dollars and Shop Oro Valley programs.
The chamber has sold $10,375 in Oro Valley Dollars cards since July 1 of last year, according to Economic Development Manager Amanda Jacobs.
“That money will be spent at participating Oro Valley businesses. With no local property tax, sales tax is a major source of revenue for the town,” said Jacobs.
Though the financial participation agreement between the town and chamber is still being compiled, Jacobs says the chamber will still be held to its usual quarterly standards in which it submits reports addressing progress and work performed.
The chamber will continue its involvement in the Oro Valley Dollars and Shop Oro Valley campaigns in the coming fiscal year.
Initially, the Town Manager’s proposed budget allotted $20,000 to fund the chamber, $5,000 less than Perry’s request.
Jacobs says the reduced amount was not reflective of the chamber’s performance but the priorities of the town’s economic development division.
“The division will have a stronger focus on business attraction in the upcoming fiscal year, and increased the economic development marketing budget for advertising, arts and culture, and special events,” said Jacobs. “The additional $5,000 was going to be applied toward those initiatives.”
Perry says amidst a multi-million dollar budget, $30,000 is not much to ask from the taxpayers to increase local business revenues and the General Fund.
“There are 41,011 residents in Oro Valley. Receiving $30,000 to fulfill our services – that’s 72 cents per household,” said Perry. “It’s a good investment.”
The Town of Marana’s proposed budget includes $40,000 to fund its chamber of commerce in the coming year.