Newspaper article News Sentinel

Farragut Group May End Special Events ; Alliance Facing Funding Problems

Newspaper article News Sentinel

Farragut Group May End Special Events ; Alliance Facing Funding Problems

Article excerpt

FARRAGUT -- The popular special events sponsored by the Farragut Business Alliance might become the first casualties of the financial challenge the nonprofit group is facing.

At a meeting of the alliance's board of directors Thursday, issues surrounding the organization's funding, focus and identity provided fodder for a lively discussion.

Following the Board of Mayor and Aldermen's rejection last month of an almost $600,000, three-year funding proposal, the alliance is operating on about $11,000 in short-term funding. A scaled back $75,000 per-year funding proposal is set to go before the city board in May.

According to alliance Chairman David Purvis, even at the proposed budget, the group will struggle to meet the commitments outlined in the memorandum of understanding with the town, which includes special events such as the Farragut Food Festival, Red White and Blues Festival and Light the Park.

The alliance was originally chartered to promote business in the town, which gets most of its revenue from retail sales tax collections. Keeping the organization focused on business development requires careful allocation of limited resources, he said.

"We're more than events. We have to make an economic impact," Purvis said.

The rub, he said, is that the special events are considered by some elected officials and citizens to be the most import work done by the alliance. Sponsorships from local businesses, which are an important part of the alliance's proposed budget, are closely tied to these events, he said.

"The problem with these events is that there's too much overhead," Purvis said.

Budget projections for the coming year show about $35,000 in sponsorships and $10,000 in profits from the events. In the past few years, some of the events have lost money. In 2015, the July 3 Red, White and Blues Festival lost about $2,000.

The cost of labor for the Red, White and Blues Festival is about $5,000, half of the alliance's total yearly budget for labor. The alliance is trying to book a big-name headliner for the event this year, with a budget of only $7,500, board member Herc Ligdis said.

Board member Phil Dangel said the alliance needs to take a hard look at whether it can be a viable organization, particularly with respect to the mission of sponsoring special events.

"If this was a business, they wouldn't do it," he said.

He said that it would be worthwhile cutting back on events to make the organization more fiscally sound. Showing fiscal restraint would be one way to justify the requests for additional funding, he said.

Board member Todd Galanti suggested phasing out the events as a central part of the alliance mission, perhaps over several

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years, starting with the Red, White and Blues Festival.

Town Manager David Smoak, a nonvoting member of the alliance board, said that if the plan was to cut back on events, it would be necessary to make changes in the memorandum of understanding that will come before the town board in May. …

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