When City Manager Bob Bartolotta introduced new special-event fees in July to help balance the budget, he issued a warning to commissioners:
“It will impact these events in a big way. This will be controversial.”
Both predictions have come true.
The St. Armands Circle Association is saying it may have to cancel many of its events because the new fees are excessive.
Diana Corrigan, Circle Association executive director, calculates the city wants to charge her group $20,000 to put on 20 annual events, such as the Fall Art Festival and Smooth Jazz on the Circle.
“I’m extremely upset about this,” she said. “People book their vacations around our events. Once you take this away, people will find somewhere else to go.”
Bartolotta said he was hoping to offset the $220,000 in man hours that the city incurred from processing special-event permits last year.
Historically, the city has only charged event organizers for police protection and trash pickup, but Bartolotta is recommending the City Commission adopt a set of fees — per event — that would recover $40,000. A public hearing on this issue will be held at the commission’s Monday, Sept. 21, meeting.
“We spend a lot of money issuing permits,” said Bartolotta.
The county began charging special-event fees about three years ago, and the city manager said the result is more groups are bringing their events to the city, because it’s free, which costs the city more in man hours.
The city manager believed Corrigan’s $20,000 estimate was high, so he asked city staff for an analysis of the Circle’s event fees, and it showed that the fees for 15 of the Circle’s 20 events would be $10,208, because the St. Armands Association is a non-profit group and its event fees fall under the non-profit category.
Corrigan could not be reached for comment on the city’s fee analysis.
To see a list of event fees on St Armans Circle, click here.