Officials: Bootfest should pay its own way
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A YEAR IN REVIEW
Victoria heralds Bootfest as a free festival, but taxpayers bankrolled 55 percent of the more than quarter-million dollar weekend.
Convention and Visitors Bureau Director LaRue Roth said her goal is to see the festival "pay its own way."
"I believe every investment in Bootfest has been a great investment," Roth said.
The two-day festival took place the first weekend in October. It was established in 2011 to honor the region's ranching history, but has received criticism for the loose connection of local culture to footwear.
Although Roth said the event helped Victoria gain tourism publicity and generate hometown pride, that pride came at a higher cost than the bureau reported this month during a City Council meeting.
The festival underwrote its expenses with a $100,000 hotel tax allocation. Once overtime was calculated in, taxpayers contributed another $54,000 to the two-day event.
Because that overtime was paid from the general fund, not the bureau's account, the final cost of the festival ended up being almost $278,000.
Roth was unsure whether city overtime should count as an expense against the festival.
City leaders say all expenses need to be considered when looking at the festival's cost.
Councilman Emett Alvarez said he wants the festival to remain a free event, even if that means paying for associated costs from the general fund.
"I'd rather it be a free event and realize that yes, we'll have to absorb some of the indirect costs related to personnel," he said.
While the city did absorb some costs, he said the concession was that it was a free event open to everyone.
"There's a lot of intrinsic benefit that was going on there," he said.
If attendance increases next year, it could set off a chain reaction that increases corporate sponsorships and raises beverage and souvenir sales, he said. That revenue could eventually cover the personnel costs for security, cleanup and other tasks performed by city employees not in the convention and visitors bureau.
Increased crowds and alcohol sales offset the total price tag. Once revenues were accounted for, the festival ended with a net cost of $11,266, not counting overtime, Roth said.
City Councilman Paul Polasek said looking at overtime costs in conjunction with the bureau's report is important to get the big picture.
"I understand LaRue (Roth) didn't have that information" when she gave her presentation to council, Polasek said. "We need to know that, because it is an expense."
He said he wants to eventually see the festival cover overtime. Although he said he does not have a plan of how that will be rolled in with the festival's expenses in the future, he said the point is simply covering the cost.
He described the festival as having a "vast improvement from the first year." He also said Bootfest is a good value considering the size of the investment.
"I see no reason why we can't continue to support it," Polasek said. "There are probably places where we can increase revenue and reduce expenses."
Mayor Will Armstrong said he, too, wants the city administration to explore possibilities of having those overtime hours paid in the future from tourism and convention funds rather than the general fund.
"I'd like for this to break even," Armstrong said.
Armstrong said this year's reports indicate that the visitors bureau is off to a good start in making the festival financially self-sustaining. He said it helped "put Victoria on the map."
"I don't think the goal was ever for this to be a money-maker venture, but I don't think it's unreasonable for us to want to break even."