BayFest: What’s the return on taxpayer’s investment?

BayFest brings in big bucks to the City of Mobile. But at what cost to you? Both city and county tax dollars help fund the organization. FOX10 News took a closer look at BayFest’s 2013 impact study to see how the festival fared in 2013.

In 2013, the city of Mobile gave $243,000 to the organization. The county gave $200,000. So what is the return on that investment?

According to an impact study, commissioned by BayFest and prepared by University of South Alabama professor, Dr. Christopher Keshock, it’s a lot. Using a number of statistical methods Keschok said in 2013 the city of Mobile brought in between $985,000 and $1.1 million in sales tax revenue. Mobile County brought in between $281,000 to $323,000 tax revenue.

According to Keshock, the total benefit of the music fest decreased about 7 percent from the year before. BayFest officials have said that could be due to tropical storm Karen.

Since there are some critical needs in the City of Mobile right now, including budget cuts from both the Mobile Police Department and Mobile Fire-Rescue and city employees have been without a raise for the last 7 years, FOX10 News wanted to know could BayFest do without tax dollars? We asked the president of BayFest, Bobby Bostwick, that question.

Bostwick wrote in part: “BayFest was created at the request of the City of Mobile in 1995. The City of Mobile is the chief beneficiary of the event! BayFest, Inc. is a non-profit corporation that does not financially benefit from the festival. Any and all profits, if there are any, go back into the festival,” wrote Bostwick.

He also wrote this:

“I am comfortable that with the grant of $243,000 cash, plus the in-kind value from the city, that there was a very substantial return on investment back to the City of Mobile.”

The Stimpson administration is evaluating contracts like BayFest for fiscal year 2015. Mayor Sandy Stimpon’s chief of staff Colby Cooper said each financial request will be scrutinized.

“Are you making Mobile safer? Are you making Mobile more business friendly? Are you making it more family friendly?” said Cooper. He also said tax dollars spent on organizations like BayFest will be tracked and measured up to the mayor’s vision.

“Are they doing what they said they would do with the dollars that the city gave them?” said Cooper.

Cooper said there are 75 organizations requesting money from the city for fiscal year 2015. BayFest is one of them. Cooper won’t disclose how much the festival is asking until the budget is released to the city council. But he did say there are no guarantees.

So far the Stimpson’s administration says about $12 million in funding requests have been submitted. Who asked for what should be made public sometime in September.

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