Lemoore Chamber of Commerce gets a cut, but not as bad as thought

By Ed Martin, Editor

Lemoore council leaders had a busy night at Tuesday’s (June 20) council meeting. Faced with a tight budget, Lemoore staff recommended cutting back on some contracts, including a longstanding relationship with the Lemoore Chamber of Commerce.

The chamber appeared before the council requesting a continuance of its $55,000 annual contribution from the City. City staff, citing its tight budget, suggested city councilmembers cut the budget to $30,000 per year – continuing the two-year budget.

Currently, the contract between the chamber and the city calls for seven required events, but because of budget cuts, the chamber could reduce that figure to just four, but insisted the chamber retain the annual Christmas Parade. The chamber contributions are currently funded completely out of the general fund. The Lemoore Chamber of Commerce has a little over 300 current members.

“The current agreement we have with the Lemoore Chamber of Commerce will expire at the end of June,” said Nathan Olson, Lemoore’s city manager.  “What we’re looking for is another two-year agreement commencing on July 1 and to run through June 2019.”

“We have some shortfalls in the general fund, said Olson. “We went through our budgeting process this past year, and there were a lot of areas where we had to take good hard looks at and see where we could make some changes to deliver a balanced budget.”

He said the city will continue to support the chamber to the tune of $30,000 annually for sponsorship of community events and payment for services related to business development and marketing. The previous two-year contract with the Lemoore Chamber of Commerce contributed $54,000 and $55,000 respectively for services, which included economic development efforts and specific programs facilitated by the chamber, as well as annual community events, business development and marketing.

For many years, the contracts with the Lemoore Chamber of Commerce were funded through the Redevelopment Agency, and not with the use of the city’s general fund. However, with the disbanding of the Lemoore Redevelopment Agency, the city no longer has funds available to assist in paying for the services provided by the Lemoore Chamber of Commerce.

“The Chamber of Commerce has been a wonderful partner,” said Councilmember Holly Blair. “I’m very, very proud of the work they’ve done on behalf of the city and I am very thankful. They’ve looked at the contract and understand our budget right now and why we’ve had to cut back at a reduced rate, but through the whole process they have been just wonderful partners to our city and our economic development.”

Lemoore Chamber of Commerce Chairman William Parry agreed that budgets are tight. “We appreciate the position you’re in with regard to the budget,” he said. These are tough times and priorities have to be made and lines have to be drawn. We represent the business community of Lemoore, so we know as well as anyone the tough fiscal times that are present.”

Parry told members that about 40 percent of the chamber’s budget is affected and he said he hopes councilmembers will reconsider the cuts. “We think it would negatively impact the members with many lost events which have collateral impacts as well as cause fiscally long-term damage to Lemoore.”

He cited the possible loss of the summer music events, the Youth Entrepreneurs Program, Pizzafest, and other events. “There are a lot of events that will have to go.”

A compromise was reached. Councilmember Dave Chedester moved that instead of a $30,000 contribution this year, councilmembers increase this year’s contribution to $40,000. Councilmembers voted 4-1 to accept the additional funding.

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