Brookings City Council cuts campus event funding


Marie Robbins, Reporter

A pool of city money to help university organizations host events has been cut from $50,000 to $10,000 for 2020.

City councilors approved next year’s Brookings city budget Sept. 25, including a sharp cut to what is known as the Student Visitor Promotion Fund.

The fund is controlled by the Students’ Association, with money going to student organization events that attract visitors to town. Organizations that benefit from the money include the Hobo Day Committee, the University Program Council and certain events at the Performing Arts Center.

Lower sales tax revenue forced the city to make budget cuts. City Councilor Holly Tilton Byrne said city departments evaluated their budgets and made cuts there before cuts were made to outside entities.

“We worked very hard this year to have a balanced budget,” Tilton Byrne said.

SA leaders are worried the funding cuts could hurt the campus community.

“We all benefit from the events that come to us,” said Hattie Seten, the SA’s Government Affairs chairperson.

Last year the Hobo Day Committee received $17,000 from the Student Visitor Promotion Fund, said Jeanette Klein, Grand Pooba of the committee. The money the Hobo Day Committee received from the fund went toward the Hobo Day Parade, marketing of Hobo Week events and maintenance of the 107-year-old Bummoblie.

“Hobo Day is a District One homecoming. People expect it to look like that, but nobody wants to pay for it,” says Klein.

Tilton Byrne said one reason the city council decided to cut the Student Visitor Promotion Fund is that not all of the money was spent last year – $41,596.87 of the $50,000 that was allocated.

Members of SA believe the city money that goes into the fund is money well spent. An SA report claims that the $41,596.87 used by the fund last year created a $1.8 million economic impact for the city — a return on investment of $44.96 on the dollar, the report says.

The Student Visitor Promotion Fund is funded through revenue from the Bed, Board and Booze tax which is a sales tax on hotel rooms, food and alcohol, Seten said.

Seten and Klein said that the “3B” sales tax is a mandatory tax for those students who are required to buy a meal plan to eat on campus. Because of this requirement, a portion of the tax dollars generated from these students is allocated to the Student Visitor Promotion Fund.

The Student Visitor Fund began in 2017, and the city council is set to re-evaluate its cut to the fund in February 2020. At that time, it’s possible city leads will vote to allocate more money.

Seten said the cut to the Student Visitor Promotion Fund is especially concerning because it comes at a time when the SA budget has already been cut by 22% due to lower enrollment. The Student’s Association allocates money to different events and student organizations on campus.

With the combined budget cuts to both the Student Promotion Fund and the SA budget, Seten said she advises student organizations to re-evaluate their budgets and look for support from outside sponsors.

But sometimes support can be difficult to find. Klein said that in 2017, the then-Grand Pooba of the Hobo Day Committee, Anna Chicoine, visited over 30 businesses in Brookings, but received donations from only three.

Klein says a ray of hope still shines for the committee as there may be some carryover in the next year. However, the next five years could see major changes with a reduced budget.