The Huntsville Lake of Bays Chamber of Commerce’s request for $50,000 from the Town of Huntsville to help fund event and cultural tourism was met with opposition from councillors Karin Terziano and Bob Stone who are concerned about next year’s tax increase.
At a special meeting of council this week, Kelly Haywood, Executive Director for the Huntsville Lake of Bays Chamber of Commerce, laid out the request.
Calling it a fee for service to continue to promote Huntsville externally through event and cultural tourism initiatives, Haywood reminded council of the work that has been done, either solely by the Chamber or in partnership, over the years. The list is extensive but some of the highlights include: their signature event series including Girlfriends’ Getaway Weekend and a winter event, Muskoka Sound, Zombie Run, ParaSport Winter Games, Ontario Winter Games, the U18 Women’s Hockey Championships, and Muskoka Ironman.
Haywood reminded council of all the initiatives, partnerships, and supports the Chamber has in place.
The $50,000 request is in addition to the $48,000 council is considering paying the Chamber to handle tourism inquiries.
The attached list of tactics will no longer be provided by the Chamber of Commerce without this fee for service leaving a void of this important service in our community.
warned Chamber ED Kelly Haywood in a written report to council
While most councillors were receptive to considering the payout, a few spoke out reminding everyone else of the tough choices they have ahead during budget deliberations.
Councillor Bob Stone expressed how dire he feels the situation is and explained why he hadn’t voted in favour of furthering any of the day’s funding requests.
“I don’t know if you have noticed how I have been voting this afternoon? Taxpayers are going to see the biggest increase this year that they have seen in recent memory. I can’t support this funding when it means many of our potholes won’t be filled.”
Deputy Mayor Karin Terziano echoed Stone’s concern over the tax increase residents are going to have to shoulder.
I am not going to be able to support this because what we have to do this year is come up with $150,000 for Ironman …plus the $100,000 from last year’s Ironman and then this $50,000 plus the other $48,000 for the Chamber, that’s a 3.5% increase. I am sorry to have to say that.Deputy mayor Karin Terziano
Councillor Nancy Alcock brought a different perspective to the conversation, comparing staffing levels at the Town with what the Chamber does.
“I really struggle with this. The Town of Huntsville presently has a Manager of Marketing, a Manager of Sales and Marketing, a Manager of Arts, Culture and Heritage, and an Economic Development Officer. We have lots of our staff working on events, getting events… I am not sure why our Manager of Marketing couldn’t be doing some of this, working with the Chamber?”
The 2014 Financial statements for the Chamber outline some of the difficulties the Chamber ran into with their event tourism and external marketing initiatives that year.
According to the 2014 financial statements, Chamber member fees accounted for $108,000 of the revenue. The Town’s contribution this year was $84,000 (please note the correction from an early published figure of $104,000).
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