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Colorado Springs stands alone in offering 50 percent discounts to nonprofit special events

Vice mayor Lionel Rivera has attended the Balloon Classic, the Festival of Lights, and the Fourth of July festivities in Memorial Park. He did not, however, make it to the Nerd Parade.

Last August, 40 self-professed nerds marched down Tejon Street, sponsored by Rising Star Communications, a local company specializing in "leadership training." The day had been officially declared "Nerd Day" by Mayor Mary Lou Makepeace.

Because the nerds were not engaging in promotional activity, the City's office of special events extended its 50-percent discount for what it calls "city services," including for police overtime. For the past three years, the City has charged nonprofit groups in town half-price for its security costs -- prior to that it charged them nothing.

Altogether, last August's Nerd Parade cost the city $230 in overtime police costs, of which the nerds paid $115. In the context of the recently announced $16 million budget gap, the parade of nerds is hardly a drop in the bucket.

But that was before the recession hit.

As Councilman Charles Wingate said, "The fat times are over, and we're going to have to tighten our belts." In the wake of anticipated budget cuts, members of the City Council are expected to submit their lists of proposed fat trimming.

As of Monday, Wingate had not finalized his list of expenses he believes can be shaved from the City's budget, though he did say all nonessential services would be considered.

The city stands alone

Last year, Colorado Springs billed more than $82,000 in city services -- mostly in the form of police overtime at $49 an hour -- to various nonprofit organizations for special-event coverage.

According to the City's special events coordinator, Preston White, this year's revenues are estimated at $80,000: nearly the amount of the annual budget of the Beidelman Environmental Center, which has been proposed for elimination from next year's budget by City Manager Lorne Kramer.

But in other cities, nonprofits pay full price for security services. In Denver, for instance, an interagency task force occasionally awards small organizations funding for first-time events, says Denver's special events coordinator, Ron Garrison. The vast majority, however, nonprofit or not, pay their way.

According to Ellen Cunningham of Boulder's city manager's office, most nonprofits find private sponsors to defray the costs of city services. "We just have too many special events in Boulder," she said.

Absorbing the cost

Prior to 1999, the City ate the entire cost of city services to nonprofits. But as the city's population grew, so too did the size and number of special events.

In 1998, the City amended its policy to cover half the costs. "It was strictly a budget issue," said Rivera, the vice mayor. "We couldn't pay city staff overtime for those events."

Rivera said that, after the City's change in policy, none of the special events were cancelled.

David Jenkins, event coordinator for SpringSpree, said that the City's 1999 policy change forced his event to be cut down from two days to one. Of the prospect of further cuts he said, "It would certainly put a severe budget crunch into the event, which we would have to make up for by finding other sponsors."

Last year SpringSpree cost the City $8,745, of which the nonprofit sponsors paid $4,370.

Luke Travins of Concept Restaurants organizes Micro Expo, a microbrew festival held in September. "It's such a successful event that we could absorb the cost [of city services] and then look at potentially raising prices in the future."

This year, Micro Expo cost the City more than $2,600. Micro Expo raised over $50,000 for the Colorado Symphony and the Downtown Partnership, a nonprofit trade association composed of downtown businesses.

Happy to pay

Many of the events on the City's special-events budget consist of charity runs and races to raise money for causes related to muscular sclerosis, autism and domestic-violence prevention. WestFest is a country music festival that raises money for the Pikes Peak Range Riders Foundation, which in turn funds several hospices and boys and girls clubs throughout the Front Range.

Kevin Kipp, a producing partner of the event, said, "It's great help that they're able to reduce those costs, otherwise you wouldn't find people willing to take a risk on producing events that way.

A change in policy, he says, "would hurt any promoter, not just WestFest, but anyone trying to produce events in Colorado Springs."

John O'Donnell, who has organized Old Colorado City's St. Patrick's Day Parade since the early 1980s and remembers when the City didn't help defray the costs.

Back then he had to drum up between $2,000 and $3,000 in donations; this year, the parade cost nearly $7,000. "I'm very grateful for the City's help, but I'm happy to beat the streets and raise the money, too," he said.

City very generous

One of the larger nonprofit events that occurred this year was Focus on the Family's 25th anniversary celebration, which drew an estimated 20,000 visitors from around the country.

The event was held almost entirely on Focus's north Colorado Springs campus, but the crowd required police security. The weekend-long event totaled out at $10,942, of which the city picked up $5,471.

"It was generous thing for them [the City] to do," said Steve Kenney, Focus's community relations manager. "Would we have held the event and done what we did if the City hadn't subsidized it? The answer is absolutely yes."

This week, City Councilwoman Judy Noyes said she hopes to be able to save some "nonessential services" that she believes are absolutely essential to quality of life in Colorado Springs.

While the policy on nonprofit special events has yet to come up in City Council debate, Noyes said that it's worth taking a strong look at a special-events policy that makes sense.

"The tricky part is what kind of events do you approve, and what do you not approve; each issue has to be considered on its own merits," Noyes said.

Vice mayor Lionel Rivera has attended the Balloon Classic, the Festival of Lights, and the Fourth of July festivities in Memorial Park. He did not, however, make it to the Nerd Parade.

Last August, 40 self-professed nerds marched down Tejon Street, sponsored by Rising Star Communications, a local company specializing in "leadership training." The day had been officially declared "Nerd Day" by Mayor Mary Lou Makepeace.

Because the nerds were not engaging in promotional activity, the City's office of special events extended its 50-percent discount for what it calls "city services," including for police overtime. For the past three years, the City has charged nonprofit groups in town half-price for its security costs -- prior to that it charged them nothing.

Altogether, last August's Nerd Parade cost the city $230 in overtime police costs, of which the nerds paid $115. In the context of the recently announced $16 million budget gap, the parade of nerds is hardly a drop in the bucket.

But that was before the recession hit.

As Councilman Charles Wingate said, "The fat times are over, and we're going to have to tighten our belts." In the wake of anticipated budget cuts, members of the City Council are expected to submit their lists of proposed fat trimming.

As of Monday, Wingate had not finalized his list of expenses he believes can be shaved from the City's budget, though he did say all nonessential services would be considered.

The city stands alone

Last year, Colorado Springs billed more than $82,000 in city services -- mostly in the form of police overtime at $49 an hour -- to various nonprofit organizations for special-event coverage.

According to the City's special events coordinator, Preston White, this year's revenues are estimated at $80,000: nearly the amount of the annual budget of the Beidelman Environmental Center, which has been proposed for elimination from next year's budget by City Manager Lorne Kramer.

But in other cities, nonprofits pay full price for security services. In Denver, for instance, an interagency task force occasionally awards small organizations funding for first-time events, says Denver's special events coordinator, Ron Garrison. The vast majority, however, nonprofit or not, pay their way.

According to Ellen Cunningham of Boulder's city manager's office, most nonprofits find private sponsors to defray the costs of city services. "We just have too many special events in Boulder," she said.

Absorbing the cost

Prior to 1999, the City ate the entire cost of city services to nonprofits. But as the city's population grew, so too did the size and number of special events.

In 1998, the City amended its policy to cover half the costs. "It was strictly a budget issue," said Rivera, the vice mayor. "We couldn't pay city staff overtime for those events."

Rivera said that, after the City's change in policy, none of the special events were cancelled.

David Jenkins, event coordinator for SpringSpree, said that the City's 1999 policy change forced his event to be cut down from two days to one. Of the prospect of further cuts he said, "It would certainly put a severe budget crunch into the event, which we would have to make up for by finding other sponsors."

Last year SpringSpree cost the City $8,745, of which the nonprofit sponsors paid $4,370.

Luke Travins of Concept Restaurants organizes Micro Expo, a microbrew festival held in September. "It's such a successful event that we could absorb the cost [of city services] and then look at potentially raising prices in the future."

This year, Micro Expo cost the City more than $2,600. Micro Expo raised over $50,000 for the Colorado Symphony and the Downtown Partnership, a nonprofit trade association composed of downtown businesses.

Happy to pay

Many of the events on the City's special-events budget consist of charity runs and races to raise money for causes related to muscular sclerosis, autism and domestic-violence prevention. WestFest is a country music festival that raises money for the Pikes Peak Range Riders Foundation, which in turn funds several hospices and boys and girls clubs throughout the Front Range.

Kevin Kipp, a producing partner of the event, said, "It's great help that they're able to reduce those costs, otherwise you wouldn't find people willing to take a risk on producing events that way.

A change in policy, he says, "would hurt any promoter, not just WestFest, but anyone trying to produce events in Colorado Springs."

John O'Donnell, who has organized Old Colorado City's St. Patrick's Day Parade since the early 1980s and remembers when the City didn't help defray the costs.

Back then he had to drum up between $2,000 and $3,000 in donations; this year, the parade cost nearly $7,000. "I'm very grateful for the City's help, but I'm happy to beat the streets and raise the money, too," he said.

City very generous

One of the larger nonprofit events that occurred this year was Focus on the Family's 25th anniversary celebration, which drew an estimated 20,000 visitors from around the country.

The event was held almost entirely on Focus's north Colorado Springs campus, but the crowd required police security. The weekend-long event totaled out at $10,942, of which the city picked up $5,471.

"It was generous thing for them [the City] to do," said Steve Kenney, Focus's community relations manager. "Would we have held the event and done what we did if the City hadn't subsidized it? The answer is absolutely yes."

This week, City Councilwoman Judy Noyes said she hopes to be able to save some "nonessential services" that she believes are absolutely essential to quality of life in Colorado Springs.

While the policy on nonprofit special events has yet to come up in City Council debate, Noyes said that it's worth taking a strong look at a special-events policy that makes sense.

"The tricky part is what kind of events do you approve, and what do you not approve; each issue has to be considered on its own merits," Noyes said.

____________________________________________________

Some Events That Have Benefited

Event Total Cost City's Discount

Balloon Classic $12,653.12 $6,326.56

Territory Days $11,600.38 $5,800.19

Focus on the Family Anniversary $10,942.42 $5,471.21

SpringSpree $8,745.84 $4,372.92

St. Patrick's Day Events $6,923.79 $3461.89

Nerd Parade $230.22 $115.11

  • Colorado Springs stands alone in offering 50 percent discounts to nonprofit special events

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