8 of the 9 board members were present for the special meeting that was called last Friday. Absent was Mike Nelson. Public attendance was probably the smallest it has been in the last year. It’s anyone’s guess whether this was due to the unusual scheduling of the meeting, a lack of public interest, or the public just agreeing with the priorities of the TDC/CVB as set out in the budget.
The board unanimously approved the FY 2009 budget which begins on October 1st. The budgets were accepted as proposed by staff and no motions were made suggesting any changes. Final approval will now be up to the Bay County Commission which is scheduled to take up the matter on Setember 16th.
A few highlights:
College Spring Break: The budget provides for $250,000($150,000 CVB and $100,000 co-op) for College Spring Break marketing. President Rowe advised that a proposal has been received from mtvU to return. Considering the prior board discussion about whether the CVB should be in the college spring business and the promise of a public discussion that has never taken place, it is quite interesting that the budget for this controversial market segment has now actually been increased.
Sports Marketing: The budget allocates $32,500 to fund a feasibility study for the multi-use indoor facility previously discussed. Mayor Oberst took the opportunity to point out to the board that the bulk of the operating cost of Frank Brown Park is paid for by the City of Panama City Beach. She explained that the City spends about $3 million operating the park while only receiving $400,000 in income from the park.
Special Events: Although the Plan of Work explains that FY 2009 will be a transitional year, the CVB basically plans on providing the same funding as FY 2008. $160,000 in direct funding is included:
$15,000 Gulf Coast Charity Horse Show
$25,000 Emerald Coast Cruzin
$50,000 Wine & Seafood Festival (previously Indian Summer Festival)
$50,000 Grand Lagoon National Fishing Tournament
$10,000 4th of July Fireworks
$10,000 Seabreeze Jazz Festival
Only the Horse Show, EC Cruzin, and the Jazz Festival actually requested funding. I find the $100,000 for the Wine & Seafood Festival and the Grand Lagoon National to be especially disturbing due to the fact that their inaugural 2008 events have not even taken place yet.
Lifeguards: The budget provides no funding for them and no board member even brought up the subject.
Beach Trash: The subject of beach trash came up and some board members expressed their opinion that the blue barrels were unacceptable due to what our competitors were doing. President Rowe expressed his opinion that sufficient funds were not available and that it would be best to wait for a bed tax increase. Obviously this is just another example of the board deciding that advertising is more important. If they really felt it was important, they would reallocate funds now rather than waiting for a bed tax increase that may not be approved by the County Commission.
Kirk Lancaster (Marketing Committee member) expressed his opinion that the “Summer White Sale” was a failure and that that advertising should be brought in-house rather than continuing to use Y Partnership. Lancaster believes that bed tax revenues should be used to improve the visitor experience, not just advertise for the tourist businesses. He spoke specifically about the trash issue suggesting that the board provide for improved cleanup, recycling, and more ascetically-pleasing receptacles.
Charles Mason(owner of panamacitybeach.com) expressed his disappointment over how this special meeting was advertised and scheduled and referred to it as “old TDC style”. Mason also spoke on the beach trash issue. He suggested that at a minimum, funding should be provided for a pilot program.