Jim Gross, York’s director of public works, submitted the following letter to the editor concerning special events in the city.
In his letter, Gross says “there is a systemic problem with the way we fund our special events in the City of York.” He goes on to suggest the possibility of establishing an endowment for such events.
What do you think of the letter, and how should the city tackle this funding?
“Special events are a wonderful attraction and amenity to a community’s quality of life. YorkFest, Olde York Street Fair, Bike Night, Light Up Night and the New Years Eve’s festivities are among the few cherished community events hosted in the City of York. Unfortunately, special events generally do not make money. In most cases, as in the City of York, we rely solely on fundraising and sponsorships to pay for our special events. We’ve done a pretty good job too. Annually, city staff and community volunteers dedicate time and resources to raise the money necessary to cover the cost so all of these events may be offered free to the community. The challenge is as less sponsorship funding is available; communities must make difficult decisions to prioritize events. We could make the decision to subsidize our events using tax revenue but have long resisted that temptation. This situation is not unique to York.
“The lack of funding and subsequent cancellation of the New Years Eve event in the City of York has caused considerable concern to many residents and the media. This year the Halloween Parade, operated successfully for the past several years by the YWCA, also faced funding problems and is now in jeopardy. I am certain Mary Yeaple, St. Patrick’s Day Parade organizer would tell a similar tale.
“I truly believe there is a systemic problem with the way we fund our special events in the City of York. Events that everyone seems to want to see continue. Each organization from the City to organizers of the Saint Patrick’s Day and Halloween Parades must compete for scarce dollars to fund our events. We also must compete for scarce dollars from many of the same donors for the funds. Would it make more sense for one organization to take on the fund raising role for all special events? Could the Cultural Alliance or the United Way add York’s special events to their existing fund raising? The total amount that would need to be raised is, to my best estimate, between $200,000 and $250,000, not a huge amount of money when added to the aggregate funds theses groups already raise. By having one centralized organization do the fundraising, the event organizers are no longer competing against each other for the same donors. Efforts can then be more focused on the actual running of the events with less stress and strain on constantly trying to raise funds. Perhaps the long term goal could be to establish a permanent endowment for all special events.
“If we want community events to continue, which apparently many do, then we must seriously look at more permanent ways to provide the funds needed to operate them. The City of York cannot do this on our own. We need the help of other organizations and the bold thinking of their Board members to find a way to provide assistance. The future of many of our events is at stake. I truly believe that this issue of permanent funding for the events can be solved and would ask the York community to give it careful thought.”