By STEVEN NALLEY
Tuesday at City Hall, the Starkville Board of Aldermen approved two requests for in-kind services for upcoming events despite opposition to both requests from two aldermen.
Starkville Main Street Manager Jennifer Gregory requested services valued at $2,323 for both the third annual Pumpkinpalooza and the second annual Downtown Block Party. Mississippi State University Student Association President Rhett Hobart requested services valued at $8,794.94 for Bulldog Bash.
Ward 6 Alderman Roy A. Perkins and Ward 7 Alderman Henry N. Vaughn opposed both measures. Gregory’s request passed 5-2, with all aldermen but Vaughn and Perkins in favor. Hobart’s request passed 4-2, with Ward 2 Alderman Sandra Sistrunk abstaining from the vote.
During her presentation, Gregory said both the Downtown Block Party and Pumpkinpalooza lend Starkville a lot of exposure and increase sales downtown.
“Additionally, Pumpkinpalooza was this year featured in Mississippi Magazine, which is the first statewide feature stories that the community of Starkville has seen in such a publication in quite a while,” Gregory said. “With Pumpkinpalooza, we had retailers report that was their best evening of sales in the entire fall season last year.”
When the time came to consider approving Gregory’s request, Perkins spoke against the measure as well as Bulldog Bash. Describing the planned in-kind services as “handouts,” Perkins said the city has more pressing needs to spend its limited budget on, and event organizers should look to other sources for in-kind funding.
“We, in our budget, made some cutbacks on outside contributions this time,” Perkins said. “It is my personal opinion that this matter is the equivalent of our giving an outside contribution. No disrespect to those requesters, but as a member of this governing body, I am charged with the duty to ensure we spend this money wisely. I know it may be unpopular to some to speak against this. Personally, I don’t look at the popularity of these things. I just call it as I see it. I want to encourage my colleagues that we need to have a stopping point for these in-kind services.”
Perkins said it is particularly worrisome that MSU already receives 20 percent of the funds from sales taxes for such events as Bulldog Bash, but the city only receives 10 percent of those funds and then gives up some of those to in-kind services. After Perkins finished speaking, Ward 5 Alderman Jeremiah Dumas issued a rebuttal.
“I want us to realize that the only way to make money from the 2 percent side is by spending money on the 2 percent side,” Dumas said. “What’s $2,000 when every one of us that sit on this table and have children can go downtown in Halloween and our kids can have a good time? Downtown is packed and it’s just a tremendous event for the entire season, just the same as Bulldog Bash.”
The board also approved a measure to amend the budget for fiscal year 2011 and to change the budget committee’s name to the “Audit and Budget Committee,” with corresponding changes to duties. Sistrunk said the name and duty change simply allows the board to coordinate more closely with an outside auditor, and the amendment to the budget is routine.
“We do this two or three times a year,” Sistrunk said. “It reflects areas where there were overages and reclassifying budget amounts to cover those overages. For instance, in the street department, they have an aging fleet of vehicles and they incurred a lot more expense in the repairs and maintenance line than they had anticipated, so they had to take budget dollars from other places and move them to repairs and maintenance to cover that overage. So, that one was just a housekeeping matter.”