MAYVILLE - County funding for the Bemus Bay Pops was cut Wednesday by the legislature.
The summer concert series is still receiving $3,775 from the county this year, but will now not receive an additional $8,705.
The decision came after Tom DeJoe, D-Brocton, pointed out that the Pops is in its fifth year receiving funds from the county's bed tax revenues. In 2009, the legislature instituted a three-year limit for organizations to receive such tourism money.
The funding for the Pops and other events and festivals comes from the county's bed tax revenues, not the general budget. The 5 percent occupancy tax charged by the county is broken up into two portions, with 2 percent supporting waterways projects and a portion of the 3 percent going to help fund tourism projects.
To receive the regular, on-cycle funding from the bed tax revenues, an event organizer must apply a year in advance. That's how Dan Dalpra, who heads the Bemus Bay Pops, received the $3,775 this year. He applied in 2010 for to receive regular, on-cycle funding this year. All applications made last year were reviewed and prioritized, with the top projects receiving bed tax money from the legislature.
The $8,705 which Dalpra will now not be receiving is from an emergency pot of money which the legislature created in 2009. As opportunities sometimes arise and event organizers cannot always anticipate additional costs which don't crop up a year in advance, the legislature created a pot of money to be awarded off-cycle. So, whereas the first round of awards were announced months ago, this second round of awards was up for approval Wednesday night by the legislature.
The Bemus Bay Pops was one of four events which was set to receive the off-cycle, emergency funding from the legislature Wednesday.
The County Legislature pulled the $8,705 in funding from the Pops because, as DeJoe pointed out, the summer concert series has exceeded the legislature's three-year limit.
DeJoe's concern sparked questions and puzzlement from his fellow legislators. Some didn't remember anything about a three-year limit. Others thought the three-year limit was only a guideline while still others believed it to be a hardfast rule of receiving bed tax money.
As it was eventually explained by Visitors Bureau executive director Andrew Nixon and County Attorney Steve Abdella, the legislature added the three-year limit into its application for the bed tax funds but not into its own bylaws regarding the money.
Legislators then questioned whether 2011 should count as the second, third or fifth year of funding for the Pops - as the three-year limit was instituted in 2009.
"The Bemus Bay Pops received funding in 2008, 2009 and 2010," Nixon told the legislature. "So, in 2009, they made an application for 2010 knowing that they could only apply for three consecutive years for the same project. That could be interpreted as three years from 2010, meaning 2010, 2011 and 2012. Or it could be taken to be retroactive to mean 2008, 2009 and 2010.
"Whether knowing that there was a three-year limit has any connection to receiving three or more years," Nixon told the legislature, "that's really something that you should probably decide and then let the review committee know."
DeJoe argued that nobody was grandfathered in when they instituted the three-year limit in 2009. All organizations, he said, should have known the limit applied to any funding they received past years.
"In essence, somebody has loopholed here, getting five years out of it when somebody else is going to get three," DeJoe said. "I'm not particularly happy to keep funding an organization that is well aware of what's going on and should have been notified. If we were remiss, so be it, but I'm not happy. I wasn't happy last year when I heard that it was their fourth year. ... I'm very concerned about somebody, and I will say it bluntly, milking the system when other organizations are left out and have been left out."
The idea behind limiting organizations to receiving only three years of funding is that the limit will force the legislature to support new, upstart endeavors. After receiving three years of county funding, festivals should ideally be able to stand on their own legs so that the bed tax funding can then be spent on new events.
In total, the Bemus Bay Pops has received $51,081 in bed tax revenues throughout the last five years - $12,500 in 2007, $10,000 in 2008, $15,000 in 2009. $9,806 in 2010 and only $3,775 in 2011.
DeJoe's proposal to remove the Bemus Bay Pops from the list of bed tax projects was passed by the legislature with minimal opposition. A role call vote was not taken, but three legislators were vocally noted as opposed - Dick Babbage, R-Bemus Point; Jay Gould, R-Ashville, and Mark Tarbrake, R-Ellicott.
Also during the discussion, legislators questioned the other projects receiving funding, with the Lucille Ball Birthday Festival in the city of Jamestown facing the most questions and criticism. Despite those questions, the Lucille Ball Birthday Festival was approved to receive $16,200. The Chautauqua Bon Vivant was approved to receive $3,225 and the Scandinavian Festival was approved to receive $3,070.