Budget could shrink Procession

Olympia: There might not be money for art studio

Staff writerOctober 30, 2012 

The nonprofit group behind the yearly Procession of the Species may have to seriously scale back its free arts studio if it receives reduced city funding next year, as a City of Olympia committee has proposed.

Earthbound Productions asked the city for $19,725 in city lodging tax dollars to fund some of its operational expenses for the 2013 event, about one-third of the organization’s yearly budget, president Nicole Mercier said. But the city’s Lodging Tax Advisory Committee this month recommended the city reimburse the group for only $3,500 in expected marketing expenses.

The Procession will still go on next year on April 26, but Mercier said the funding cut would impact the ability to offer the free art studio that’s open for seven weeks prior to the procession. That would affect the size of the procession, she said.

“It would look different,” she said. “It would not be as big.”

The Lodging Tax Advisory Committee is made up of City Councilwoman Julie Hankins, Nathan Allan of Swantown Inn Bed and Breakfast, Russ Carstensen of the South Sound Maritime Heritage Association, Jack Kiley of the Puget Sound/State Senior Games and Greg Taylor of the Phoenix Inn.

The committee’s recommendation isn’t the final word; the Olympia City Council will decide how to spend lodging tax dollars before the end of the year.

City spokeswoman Cathie Butler said the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee decided not to accept applications for operating expenses because of an expected change in state law. After June 30, the law wouldn’t allow communities to reimburse such operating expenses from lodging tax dollars.

Butler said the group wanted to apply a consistent standard to all groups: No operating dollars would be reimbursed.

But Mercier argues that her event happens before the June 30 change in state law and the group should be reimbursed. She also said local legislators are looking to change the law so that operating expenses can continue to be reimbursed.

She said Earthbound Productions already does a lot of community fundraising in addition to the lodging tax dollars. Last year’s budget was about $54,000.

The number of lodging tax dollars available varies each year, but $275,500 was disbursed for 2012. Earthbound Productions received $14,650 of that, up from $5,000 in 2011.

The biggest recipient of lodging tax dollars is the Olympia-Lacey-Tumwater Visitor and Convention Bureau, which received $100,000 for 2012 and requested $115,000 for next year.

Mercier is appealing to the community for help to ensure that the procession’s operating expenses continue to be reimbursed, saying, “We need the community to step up and tell the council why it’s so important.”

Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869 mbatcheldor@ theolympian.com

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