CAPC waiting to amend 2020 budget

Thursday, June 18, 2020

By Samantha Jones

The Eureka Springs City Advertising and Promotion Commission is giving it time before making any additional changes to the 2020 budget.

Commissioner Susan Harman said she’s feeling “comfortable” with the budget at the commission’s regular workshop on Wednesday, June 10, when chairwoman Carol Wright asked if the commission would like to cut the budget more to keep everything balanced during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Wright said the commission previously considered cutting the budget by 35 percent, saying the commission has cut 28 percent so far. Harman, who owns a bed and breakfast in Eureka Springs, said business has been on par with past years even with COVID-19 regulations since Gov. Asa Hutchinson reopened the state to out-of-state travelers in May.

“Based on the business that we’ve been doing, I’d be comfortable staying where we are,” Harman said, “and reviewing it at another time.”

Commissioner Jeff Carter agreed.

“Businesses that are open are doing well,” Carter said. “People are actually starting to get more energized to stay at places where they feel like they can distance. We’re seeing some of those smaller rentals do well.”

Commissioner Bobbie Foster, who runs two restaurants in Eureka Springs, said she doesn’t plan to open again for a while. Foster said she’s considering reopening the restaurants during phase II of Hutchinson’s reopening plan, which started Monday, June 15.

“That will probably make me more ready to open,” Foster said, “if I could have 66 percent capacity as opposed to 33 percent. Thirty-three percent, for me, would have probably been trading dollars and not making money … but at 66 percent, I think I can make money that way.”

McClung agreed with Harman, saying he’d like to look at the budget once collections come in for May and June.

“I’m not worried about what we’ll see in May or this month,” McClung said. “I’m more concerned what we’ll see in July or June.”

McClung said he’s seen more people than he expected downtown.

“It’s one of those deals … where we benefited because people took shorter trips,” McClung said. “I think they canceled their long trips, because they weren’t able to go. We’re going to reap that benefit.”

Special events coordinator Tracy Johnson said she’s still waiting for a concrete budget to move forward with putting entertainment downtown.

“The events budget has been cut quite substantially,” Johnson said. “I have just enough for the Folk Festival, with a handful of thousands of dollars left. That’s not even enough for an Auditorium show.”

Johnson added, “Once we finalize what’s happening with the budget, I’m going to work my tail off to try stretch that handful of thousands of dollars out. With what money you do allow me to have, I have to stretch that out and make it the most impactful.”

Wright said she’s concerned a second wave of the virus will hit in the fall.

“Our mission is to continue to promote the city regardless of if there’s a virus or not,” Harman said, “and do it within the guidelines — drawing people here safely. We are collecting tax dollars and that’s what those businesses expect us to do.”

Carter said he expects the commission to keep an eye on the budget as the rest of the year unfolds.

“I just think we ought to be prepared,” Carter said.

Finance director Rick Bright agreed, saying he’s more concerned about promoting the city over the winter than the summer.

“We have to have some money in the bank, because these businesses can’t have a soft winter,” Bright said. “We have to have a strong winter to keep our businesses afloat.”

The best way to do that, Harman said, is by keeping the budget for Paradise marketing where it is. Harman said 30 percent of the people who have stayed at her bed and breakfast recently had never come to Eureka Springs before.

“The goal is to keep Paradise in business with whatever we can,” Harman said, “because, in my opinion, the word is getting out there somehow. I don’t think we can afford not to have them. We can’t afford to cut their budget that much.”

Wright agreed and said the commission would address the budget further at its regular meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday, June 24, at The Auditorium.

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