The Vail Town Council increases event funding
Ryan Summerlin December 5, 2012
VAIL, Colorado – One of these years, the town of Vail won’t spend quite so much public money on special events. Next year isn’t that year.
During a lengthy hearing to give final approval to the town’s 2013 budget, town officials spent a good deal of time talking about ways to draw more people to town. Since event promotion efforts started growing about five years ago, town spending on those events has grown more than 40 percent. Spending has grown another 30 percent on tourism marketing efforts.
That spending has come back to the town in the form of growing sales tax collections during the national economic slump.
That spending will continue in 2013, with an eye toward drawing even more events to town. The Vail Commission on Special Events may spend as much as $100,000 in 2013 on a Memorial Day event. But Commission on Special Events chairwoman Jenn Bruno said that group won’t spend any money if it can’t find the right event.
Town officials also are looking for events to draw people for Thanksgiving weekend.
The drive for events led council member Margaret Rogers to ask for another $240,000 in event spending next year, including money for the Commission on Special Events and the Vail Jazz Festival.
Rogers’ request also included money for Red Sandstone Elementary School, which school representatives say isn’t being funded at the same levels as the Eagle County School District’s other elementary schools.
Council member Greg Moffet said putting town money toward the elementary school is a slippery slope.
“I think as soon as we start down this road, the school board’s going to say (to Red Sandstone), ‘You’ve got a rich uncle,'” Moffet said. “I think that will hurt you way worse than any money we could give you.”
Council member Susie Tjossem disagreed.
“Red Sandstone is the only public school in town,” Tjossem said. “For whatever reason, they don’t qualify for all the other aid the other schools get.”
Moffet said the future of Red Sandstone needs to be discussed, but the final budget hearing of the year wasn’t the right place to do it.
In the end, the council agreed to provide about $200,000 to $160,000 for special events and $20,000 each for the Vail Jazz Festival and Red Sandstone.
While council members were talking about events, they agreed to provide $400,000 in funding for the Burton U.S. Open Snowboard Championships, which will come to Vail for the first time Feb. 27 to March 3.
James Deighan, of Highline Sports and Entertainment, is helping to bring the championships to Vail. He said it’s already shaping up to become one of the town’s biggest events.
Deighan said the event has already resulted in about 3,500 room reservations. Worldwide broadcasting will put the event on TV for more than 200 hours during the championships.
“It puts Vail on a new level,” Deighan said.
To pay for the added spending, the town will change the way it splits its sales tax collections between capital spending and the general fund. Less money will go into the capital fund next year.
Other money will come from the town’s general fund reserves.
Council member Kerry Donovan agreed with the spending, but had reservations about the future.
“I’m anxious about taking money out of reserves,” Donovan said. “It might be time now to have a policy discussion (about event funding). This is just not sustainable.”