Hilliard Northwest News

Budget requests

Hilliard asked to double Solebrate! donation

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Hilliard City Council has been asked to invest as much as $30,000 in an attempt to develop the Solebrate! Food and Music Festival into the signature event organizers have envisioned.

They represented one of three groups that appeared Nov. 4 before the Finance and Administration Committee to request funding in advance of City Council's adoption of an operating budget for 2014. The Hilliard Arts Council sought annual funding of $20,000 and the Hilliard Garden Club asked for $2,000.

Don Byerly, a member of the Solebrate! festival's board of directors, asked the city to double its first $15,000 donation and appeared to garner support.

If the ultimate goal is to make Solebrate! a self-sustaining festival, then "it will require some financial commitment from the city to make it a reality," City Council President Brett Sciotto said.

Byerly indicated organizers consider it paramount that a full-time festival director be hired to plan and present next year's festival.

Destination Hilliard helped found and launch the inaugural festival, and its executive director, Christy Clark, was responsible for promoting the festival, in essence working two full-time jobs, Byerly said.

Byerly said executive directors of similar festivals have annual salaries of about $40,000 and proposed commencing a search to name an executive director by the start of next year.

Sciotto said he and Mayor Don Schonhardt have discussed the inaugural event and concur that an executive director is warranted.

"(Clark) was overtasked ... there was a gap in marketing and advertising (to promote) the event," Sciotto said.

"I think it's important for the city to continue supporting it," Councilman Al Iosue said.

Councilman Tom Baker also indicated support for additional funding.

A change of venue for Solebrate! also could be in the works.

Byerly suggested the event be relocated from the Franklin County Fairgrounds to Center Street in Old Hilliard. He also suggested reducing the length of the event from three days to two days on Friday and Saturday.

June 20 and 21 are the tentative dates for next year's festival, held on or about the summer solstice, the origin of its name.

Both suggestions are meant to trim operating costs as the festival paid to rent the fairgrounds, Byerly said.

Organizers also plan to take a second look at entertainment costs, placing the focus on the variety of food, craft beers and wine showcased at last year's event, Byerly said.

The event lost about $18,000, Byerly said, but organizers were not alarmed because many successful festivals struggle initially to get off the ground.

Poor weather conditions hampered attendance, Byerly said, but 2,439 people visited the event. Sponsors donated $82,900 in cash and $59,000 in in-kind donations of services and products.

Cash reserve fund

In legislative action, committee members introduced an ordinance to City Council that would establish a reserve fund.

While the city has maintained a cash reserve, it has never before established a specific account in the budget.

When elected in 2003, Schonhardt set a goal of maintaining a cash reserve equal to 25 percent of the city's annual general-fund operating expenses.

This year, the city is likely to add $1.1 million to a cash reserve that was $4.9 million at the start of the year, Finance Director Dave Delande said.

"This represents something we have aspired to do for more than a decade," Sciotto said.

The practice will strengthen the city's bond rating, Delande said.

The ordinance is scheduled for a first reading Nov. 25.

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