BRISTOL, Tenn. — Bristol Tennessee City Council followed Bristol, Virginia’s example Tuesday and voted to shift how much money they give to certain nonprofit organizations that benefit the city.
At its regular meeting, the council voted to decrease its appropriations to the Bristol Chamber of Commerce’s Convention and Visitors Bureau by $30,000 and programs operated by the chamber by $5,000, as part of its 2019-20 budget. Council also cut its appropriation to the Paramount Foundation by $10,000 while increasing funding to Believe in Bristol by $15,000 and allocating $30,000 for the operation of the Birthplace of Country Music Museum on the Virginia side.
Courtney Cacatian, executive director of the Bristol Conventions and Visitors Bureau and Discover Bristol, said tourism is a primary economic driver for the city and funding for Discover Bristol and the CVB is necessary for them to pursue their mission of attracting tourism.
“Any decrease in investment for Discover Bristol means less promotion of our cities to visitors and lower lodging and sales tax revenue, ultimately resulting in a greater tax burden on our residents,” Cacatian said in a statement to the Bristol Herald Courier.
However, Cacatian said Discover Bristol’s overall funding from both Twin City governments was collectively higher for the 2019-20 fiscal year because Bristol Virginia City Council voted to increase its funding from $50,000 to $125,000.
Councilwoman Lea Powers had expressed interest at previous council meetings of keeping overall funding the city gives to nonprofits at the current level but altering the allocations some nonprofits received from the city.
Council held a called work session in March where they heard from a number of representatives of nonprofit organizations.
At the March work session, Miles Marek, executive director of the Paramount Foundation said the Paramount Theatre is operating at a net loss and has delayed taking action on important maintenance and repair projects for decades. Not addressing these maintenance issues could seriously affect the Paramount’s ability to function, he added.
He also said the $25,000 the city had been giving in previous years now represents just 2% of its operating revenue and asked council to increase the funding it gives to the Paramount to $125,000. However, the allocation for 2020 represents a 40% decrease from 2019.
Conversely, council voted to allocate $30,000 to assist with the operation of the Birthplace of Country Music Museum, something it had not done in the past. At the March work session, representatives from the Birthplace of County Music requested funding, telling the council the museum was operating at a net loss despite efforts to rein in costs.
In other business, the city held a public hearing for the proposed 2019-20 budget and voted unanimously to approve it. No city residents chose to speak out during the hearing. The fiscal year budget is set at $121 million and represents an increase of $14 million, or 13%, from the current budget.
Under the budget, the property tax rate is set at the current level of $2.16 per $100 of assessed value. Solid waste fees, stormwater fees and water and sanitary sewer rates also won’t change.
The city’s portion of the budget will be $62 million, an increase of about $3.7 million from the previous year’s budget. Planned projects include the redevelopment of the old Coyne Textile building and adjacent city-owned properties on Shelby Street, reconstruction of East Cedar Street, reconfiguration of 6th Street to accommodate sidewalk cafe activity, a study to determine the economic viability of a baseball stadium and a 3% wage increase for city employees.
Funding for the school system is $59 million, an increase of $10.6 million. However, that is largely due to a disbursement of proceeds from Sullivan County school construction bonds totaling $14 million, to be used for the construction of the new middle school.
Council also voted to approve the bid from Advanced Disposal Systems of $21 per ton for solid municipal waste dumped at the company’s landfill in Blountville.
The city had previously taken its municipal waste to the Bristol Virginia landfill, but Advanced Disposal System’s bid would potentially save the city $350,000 over a five-year period versus Bristol, Virginia’s $24-per-ton bid.
Update: This article should have said the Conventions and Visitor's Bureau will receive $125,000 from Bristol, Virginia for the 2019-20 fiscal year and has been updated to reflect this.