Troubled waters?

The Dunkirk Festivals Committee held its first meeting recently as it prepares for the upcoming season of events. Several items were reviewed, including the schedule for this year and a sponsorship overview.

According to figures provided in a proposed packet for potential sponsors, the festivals have not collected enough in donations, fees and sales to cover expenses.

The numbers show the festivals and events had a higher price tag each year than what was collected to pay for them.

Expenses ranged from a high of $129,038 in 2010 to a low of $98,817 in 2012. Other years listed include 2009 at $103,334; 2011 at $104,520 and 2013 at $109,693.

Income runs from a high of $97,463 in 2013 to a low of $68,115 in 2011. Other income figures include 2009 at $90,249; 2010 at $86,568 and 2012 at $87,728.

Deficits totaled $13,084 in 2009; $42,470 in 2010; $36,405 in 2011; $11,089 in 2012 and $12,230 in 2013. In all, over the last six years the festivals have income listed at $430,124 and expenses at $545,402, an overall deficit of $115,278.

Recreation and Youth Director Tim Gornikiewicz has been part of the festivals since its second year.

“I kept copies of receipts and checks. In early 2012 or late ’11, I started putting them more in order so I knew what was what. The first few years we had a knowledge of where we’re at, but I put them all together looking back,” he explained. “In the past city funds paid for papers and things. Development had an advertising line, we used to pay for advertising out of that. Since (Mayor Anthony J. Dolce) has come here we haven’t paid city funds. There was always some city funds to cover shortfalls. … It was development, festivals.”

The equipment line included the stages, tents, porta potties and dumpsters. Professional appearances includes athletes and other celebrities, something that has been cut back. Supplies included banners, coolers, posters, coozies, shirts and banners.

Income sees increase

The festivals committee made a $500 donation after the first Picnic at the Point last year, part to the Lighthouse for allowing free admission to picnic attendees, and part to Rich Goodman for his efforts promoting bicycle safety and donation of bicycle helmets.

Income was the highest it’s been in 2013. Gornikiewicz explained that was due to the committee taking over beer sales and the Fourth of July operations.

“If we make money it goes into next year, if we lost we have to pay back the money from last year, so it’s hard to budget,” he added. “Weather killed us last year. We added three concerts on and it kind of definitely wasn’t really worth it. Beer sales were like nothing and the band still has to be paid.”

Deputy Director of Development Lacy Lawrence is in her first year working the festivals and said the schedule is set in stone, barring weather.

The fun begins with the Picnic in the Point on May 25. The Wreck & Roll Festival is scheduled for July 5 on the pier, the Chadwick Bay Beach Bash returns Aug. 3 and another try at a Dunkirk Heritage Festival is set for Sept. 13.

Music on the Pier will run on Thursdays from June 12 through Aug. 28, with the July 3 performance scheduled for Memorial Park. Throw in the fireworks on July 4 and the Wreck & Roll the following day and it will seem like a three-day festival.

Lawrence said the site for the Heritage Festival is “still up in the air.”

“The Beach Bash is still a little questionable,” she added. “We’ll have to talk about it a little more as it gets closer, due to the seawall. I’m not sure where the seawall is going to be in August. We’ll find out a little bit more as it gets closer. We’re hoping it can still be at Wright Park.”

‘Self sufficient’ goal

Dolce said the goal is make the festivals and events as self sufficient as possible.

“In 2013 we streamlined that process so the only money that goes to festivals from city taxpayers is the DLDC allotment line that you see budgeted separately in the development account. And in 2013 you’ll also notice there isn’t a separate city taxpayer-funded account for the fireworks, so we streamlined that as well,” he explained. “He’s done a nice job of putting this together. … You’ve got to have a budget and you’ve got to work within that budget to the best of your ability. A little less sponsorship money in ’13 from ’12, but I think we’re on the right track in working toward making them self sufficient.

“The way I look at it is no matter how you slice the DLDC allotment, whether it’s going toward fireworks or the festivals or music on the pier, that’s the amount. So the sponsors, the donations, offset the rest of the festivals, so city taxpayers do contribute this $30,000. Whether you want to consider it for the fireworks, the festivals, or weekly music on the pier it really doesn’t matter, but know that is the only amount of taxpayer funds going to our season. Historically, fireworks have been budgeted at $30,000 and about half would come back through donations.”

The festivals committee, with DLDC oversight, will handle the finances.

“We’re excited about the commutates. We feel we have some people that will be very active,” Dolce stated. “Not only that they bring a lot of experience in this sort of thing so we’re excited to hear the ideas and enthusiasm that comes from that committee.”

There was one point Dolce wanted to stress to city taxpayers.

“The city does not make money off the beer sales, they simply go to the expenses. It’s not cheap to put these on and we really encourage the public to support our food vendors and us, who are out there selling,” he explained. “We enjoy putting on the festivals, we know the public wants them. I’ll tip my cap to my predecessors for getting these going. What we’re doing is working toward the expenses, streamlining the process, making them self sufficient and still putting on a good program.”

That program starts May 25 in Point Gratiot.

Send comments to gsnyder@observertoday.com