City considers increase in Chamber funding
In previous years, the Holton City Commission had given $10,000 to the Holton Main Street program to fulfill the city’s commitment to the program and help keep it going after it lost support from the Kansas Department of Commerce.
Now that Holton Main Street is no more, commissioners have recently found themselves being asked for some of the funds that had been earmarked for the program.
During the commission’s regular meeting on Monday, Holton/Jackson County Chamber of Commerce director Carolyn McKee asked commissioners to consider an extra $10,000 in funds the Chamber for 2015. Commissioners appeared favorable to McKee’s request but decided to table it in light of a recent request made by Anna Wilhelm on behalf of the Jackson County Historical Society.
At the commission’s Dec. 15 meeting, Wilhelm met with commissioners to discuss a possible donation to help sustain the Historical Society’s activities. Commissioners suggested the possibility of sponsoring some events for the society but held off on taking any action at that time.
Wilhelm was not present for Monday’s meeting, and Commissioner Tim Morris said he would prefer to have both McKee and Wilhelm present so that the commission could “tie this whole thing up in one knot.” Morris also stated that when certain groups and organizations that promote the city seek funding, the city should be able to help them if the funds are available, particularly in the case of the Chamber.
“I would like to see us up our allocation to them,” Morris said.
McKee said that unlike most other non-profit groups that request city funding, the Chamber uses what it gets to help promote commerce, tourism — the Jackson County Tourism Council operates under the Chamber’s auspices, she said — and economic development in Holton. That was not to undermine the Historical Society’s benefit to the city, she added, noting that the society has also benefited from the Chamber’s recently-initiated Second Saturday promotion.
The Chamber has an annual budget of “about $102,000,” McKee told commissioners, and part of that will go to cover its involvement with certain programs that it has taken over from Main Street. Those include the Incentives Without Walls small business loan program and the annual Jazz on the Square event, it has been reported.
McKee also noted that the Chamber has been “solely supported by membership and fund-raising,” although it gets funding from Jackson County for promotion of the county’s businesses and industry. Morris added that county officials have “done a very good job of stepping up” to provide the Chamber with necessary funding.
Furthermore, commissioners noted that the Jackson County Commission recently voted to proceed with increasing the “guest tax” generated by hotels and other lodging establishments in the county from 3 percent to 5 percent to help fund promotion of county tourism. McKee said the Chamber does see some of that money — about $2,000 every three months — as it “filters through” the Tourism Council.
But as City Clerk Teresa Riley noted, funding for the Chamber and Main Street have come from the city’s industrial fund, which is supported by a property tax levy that is separate from the city’s general fund. That fund has about $144,000 actual cash on hand, Riley said, and Holton City Manager Bret Bauer said funds that had been earmarked for Main Street are still in the fund.
Commissioner Dan Brenner reminded McKee that the commission had been requested to give some of those funds to the Historical Society, adding that if it is possible, he would favor doing so.
“I think we need to help our community, and I know funds are limited, but I think we could kind of spread it around a little bit,” Brenner said.
Commissioner Erich Campbell agreed, saying that both the Chamber and the Historical Society are “doing awesome.” However, since Campbell said he serves as vice president of the Historical Society and as a non-voting member of the Chamber’s board of directors, he would likely abstain from a vote to provide either with more funds.
“I don’t want to burn any bridges if I know there’s going to be a conflict of interest,” he said.