Members of the Fulton City Council voted down three versions of a proposed contract between the city and the Callaway Chamber of Commerce Tuesday night.
The issue is the same as it was at the last meeting: how much money to contribute toward the chamber's budget and how that should be divvied up. Ever since the chamber merged with the Fulton Area Development Foundation and Show-Me Innovation, the city has contributed $88,000 per year toward its operations.
The 2020 budget offers $78,000 — $20,000 of which is marked as discretionary — meaning, according to the city, it's to be used to sponsor specific chamber projects or events the city particularly wishes to support.
During the Nov. 12 council meeting, chamber executive director Tamara Tateosian gave an impassioned defense of the work the chamber is doing in the community. The chamber depends on the city's support for its workforce development efforts, such as classes and efforts to recruit new businesses to the community, she said.
"Since last week, I have a significant development to report," she said in an email Nov. 20. "Through my connections, I have received a commitment for $103,000 in funding to support welding training for high school seniors."
This would be the first time Fulton has offered such a class. The $103,000 would cover about two classes of 20 students each, but the chamber needs matching funds for the program to be viable, she said.
"The difference between our request for funding of $88,000 and the city's proposed budgeted funding of $78,000 stood at $10,000," Tateosian wrote. "We propose that the city allocate the additional $10,000 to sponsor those two welding classes, as part of the matching funds that will allow the program to move forward."
Having full funding this year, rather than being $10,000 short on relatively short notice, will allow the chamber time to plan and adjust next year's budget, she added.
"I like the idea of allocating our funds for certain projects," Ward 3 council member Lindsey Pace-Snook said. "It shows the community exactly what its money is going to support with the chamber."
Valerie Sebacher, of Ward 1, agreed.
Jeff Stone, of Ward 2, was enthusiastic about the new welding program.
"I think we should consider taking the funding amount back to $88,000, whether that means adding an additional two $5,000 sponsorships or setting aside $10,000 specifically for this program," he said.
Council member Mary Rehklau, meanwhile, took issue with the idea of dictating how the chamber uses its funds.
"I think micromanaging like this isn't fair," she said.
Both agreed, however, that the chamber deserved more advance notice before a reduction in the city's funding.
Ward 3's John Braun disagreed.
"The council sat in an open budget meeting and discussed what was happening," he said. "We had the opportunity to accept $12,000 in rent (for the use of the chamber's building, which is city-owned), which we declined. In my mind, they're still $2,000 ahead. No one is trying to belittle what the chamber is doing."
Ward 4's Steve Moore sided with Braun; Ward 1's Ballard Simmons was absent.
Several Fulton business-people have spoken out in support of the chamber at previous meetings. On Tuesday, Matt Gowin added his voice to the mix.
Gowin pointed out the city is pulling $4 million from the utility cash reserves to go toward building the $9 million new recreation center currently under construction in Veterans Park. He fears that major investment may come at the cost of other community priorities, including the chamber and the building of a new swimming pool and second splash pad.
"A cut of $10,000 is peanuts in the city budget, but is a significant amount to the chamber's economic efforts," he said.
Ultimately, council members proposed and voted on three versions of the contract with the chamber.
The first, proposed by Rehklau, restored the full $88,000 in a single lump sum. Stone voted in favor, while the other members voted against.
Pace-Snook proposed an amendment which would restore the $88,000 but break it down into $58,000 as a lump sum, four $5,000 sponsorships and an additional $10,000 specifically for the welding program. She, Sebacher and Stone voted in favor, while the others voted against. Finally, the council voted on the original version of the contract: $58,000 plus the four $5,000 sponsorships. Ward 4's Rick Shiverdecker, Moore and Braun voted for it, while the others voted against.
All three ultimately failed.
However, the council did vote to pass the city's 2020 budget, which sets aside $78,000 for the chamber.
"Without a contract, that money won't be expended," City Administrator Bill Johnson said. "If the council wants to provide the extra $10,000, that can come out of the discretionary funds."
Johnson said he anticipates there will be discussion on the contract and it will likely be reintroduced at the Dec. 17 city council meeting.
Kim Barnes, of the Fulton Area Development Foundation, said the foundation and the chamber will spend the intervening time continuing to reiterate the work the organizations are doing and clarifying what they want from the city.