Local News

Avon Park cuts funding for community events

– While the city property tax rate has decreased, the possibility of fewer events downtown may have, too.

In the past, the Avon Park Main Street Community Redevelopment Agency -- a separate public entity created by the city council to implement and support redevelopment activities in specific areas -- has been able to provide up to $5,000 for event funding.

That included helping non-profit groups pay for event amenities.

However, since the ad valorem tax rate has been slashed by 95 percent, the Tax Increment Financing money, which funds the CRAs, have been cut in half. A tax increment is the difference in property taxes collected for an area above an established base year.

In September 2013, the city council approved a tentative tax rate of 30 cents on $1,000 of assessed property, which would be a total cut of 95 percent in two years.

The decrease in funds for events is based on the ad-valorem rate declining.

There are three CRAs in Avon Park: Main Street, established in 1988; Airport, established in 2002; and Southside, founded in 2001.

Historically, the Main Street CRA provided up to $5,000 for an event and now is only providing advertising costs to draw larger crowds downtown.

Some of recent events, such as the Jingle Bell 5K, have been approved for $1,000 in advertising costs, said Maria Sutherland, Avon Park director of administrative services.

Currently, the Southside and the Airport CRAs get $20,000 each and Main Street receives $80,000; in the past it was double.

The question is, asked Sutherland, is the money for events bringing people downtown and promoting business growth?

“I don’t think the decrease will affect people coming downtown to have events,” she said. “There are a lot of people who want to see Avon Park be successful; I believe people here want Avon Park to succeed.”

Events that receive CRA funding include the Jingle Bell 5K Run/Walk, the Fourth of July parade and the Music on the Mall series.

Although the city has about twice the number of special events being held compared to five years ago, the CRAs and the city will have to focus on promoting rather than subsidizing these events.

What the city is no longer doing is paying for what Sutherland called “fluff” -- T-shirts, tents and play equipment like bounce houses. She said she didn’t know how much of an impact that might have on non-profits being able to hold their special events.

Sutherland said community groups and organizations would have to adjust event program to coincide with available funding.

Tori Trinder, Avon Park Chamber of Commerce executive director, feels the cut would discourage groups outside the city to come in to use property for special events. She said it would be a matter of waiting to see what happens.

“It would be detrimental, groups may not have events in Avon Park without support. The money they were getting gave a lot of these groups money to get their event off the ground,” she said.

Dennis Mungall, president of the Avon Park Breakfast Rotary, said although CRA funding assistance for non-profit special events has been slashed, he hoped it wouldn’t be a deterrent to groups holding festivals downtown.

He said he hoped the Rotary and other groups would become self-sufficient and not have to rely on CRA funding at all.

Mungall -- who with his wife, Cindy, co-owns The Daisy Girl Shop downtown -- said although he doesn’t think any groups are happy to see funding cut, the goal should be for them to become self-sufficient in putting on public special events.

“They shouldn’t have to be dependent on money that may or not be there; I wish we could do without,” he said. “I think us and other groups would find alternative sources of funding, no matter what happens. There are other ways of getting revenue.”


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