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updated: 8/26/2014 5:30 PM

Wheaton considers giving $41,000 to downtown organization

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  • The Downtown Wheaton Association has requested $41,000 in city funding for fiscal 2014-15 to make up for a revenue shortfall.

      The Downtown Wheaton Association has requested $41,000 in city funding for fiscal 2014-15 to make up for a revenue shortfall.
    Daily Herald file photo


The Downtown Wheaton Association may receive supplemental funding from the city's general fund this year after experiencing a shortfall in revenue.

Most city council members said Monday they would grant the group's request for $41,000 for fiscal 2014-15.

City Manager Don Rose said that's the amount the group is losing due to a decline in property values in the downtown tax increment financing district that generates money for the association.

Council members, however, said they would like to see the organization work on ways to increase its revenue.

Executive Director Paula Barrington said the shortfall led the association to limit advertising and promotional support budgets for the 10 events it hosts annually.

She hopes to use the $41,000 primarily to pay for print and online advertising for existing events and to help create and advertise several new events, including a fire and ice festival in January and a family bike rally in April.

"These efforts really create a vibrant downtown everyone wants to visit, they want to be a part of, they want to identify with," she said.

The association originally was structured to operate with an annual budget that included $207,000 of tax increment financing and special service area money.

Barrington said other revenue sources include membership dues, which amount to roughly $5,200, along with sponsorships and ticket sales.

The association saved money in the past year by not taking part in a summer sidewalk sale, not hosting a regional battle of the bands competition and not organizing events on Hale Street during Taste of Wheaton. Operating expenses also were tightened, with printing, graphic design and website management being done in-house, Barrington said.

"We realize we can't always keep coming to the well," she said. "But as we do go to the well, we also want to say we are doing our part on our end to also look at other opportunities to generate income."

Councilman Phil Suess was the strongest opponent of giving the association money.

"Every entity in the TIF has experienced the same thing. The revenue they're receiving here is less than anticipated," he said. "That's reality. Every other entity's planned around it and, you know, they don't have the option of coming forward and saying we need reimbursement."

He said he is also reluctant to give a private organization money from the general fund.

"It's just too easy to come in and say we need additional dollars here," he said. "I know it's tough, it's a challenge, but you've got to live within what you've got."

Other council members said they appreciated the improvements the association has made to downtown -- some of which the city would have otherwise had to take on.

"I would be in favor of this additional funding, but I guess the caveat being we have to work out a different arrangement so this doesn't happen next year," Councilman Todd Scalzo said.

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