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Destination Downtown seeks town’s help to sponsor events

Destination Downtown South Boston is asking the town for in-kind sponsorship for its two biggest events this year, the South Boston Harvest Festival and the annual South Boston Christmas Parade.

Destination Downtown Executive Director Tamyra Vest made the request during a South Boston Town Council work session Monday night.

The proposed 2013-14 budget includes $73,460 for the town’s Main Street program, essentially the parent group of Destination Downtown South Boston.

That figure is approximately $20,000 less than the $93,453 amount budgeted for Main Street this fiscal year, where her organization picked up the tab for town public works employees to help in street closure and setup for both events, a tab totaling $5,553.52 Vest said on Monday.

Her group agreed to put on the Christmas parade after the Retail Merchants Association dropped its sponsorship, Vest told council.

“We set out to make it better, made rules and regulations, and we kind of turned it into the premier parade in our region,” she said.

“We had to go out and find sponsorship, and we had to charge a nominal fee.”

Paying town employees to close the streets and do other related work put them “in the hole” for the Christmas parade, while the Harvest Festival “barely broke even,” Vest explained.

Her group also had taken steps to cut costs for the Harvest Festival, including the elimination of two stages for musical acts and eliminating contracts for musical entertainment.

Vest said she considers Destination Downtown South Boston an economic development arm of the town.

“A public-private partnership is needed to keep downtown vibrant,” said Vest. “Please consider in-kind sponsorship for the parade and the harvest festival.”

Representatives from The Prizery, as well as the library and Halifax County Division of Tourism also appeared before council.

Barbara Speece and Lillian “Boo” Evans of The Prizery did not ask for an appropriation beyond the $20,000 earmarked for the 2013-14 budget.

Instead they reported to council the results of recent fundraising efforts.

Individual donations this year currently stand at close to $96,000, almost $11,000 more than last year, according to Evans, who told council it costs approximately $667 a day to operate The Prizery.

A fourth Summer Theatre Celebration is planned, with five area businesses contributing almost $50,000 toward that effort, Speece said.

Ticket sales cover only the costs of performances, Speece told council.

Halifax County Director of Tourism Linda Shepperd said Monday almost 8,000 visitors from 49 states have come through the Visitor Center since its opening in March 2012, for various reasons.

People come to South Boston for funerals, to the hospital and to look for cemeteries, Sheppard told council.

“My goal is to look at Halifax County tourism as an export commodity,” said Shepperd.

South Boston has proposed a $92,000 appropriation to the tourism division in the proposed 2013-14 budget, the same as the current fiscal year. 

Joe Zappacosta, director of the Halifax County-South Boston public library system, also reported fund-raising and cost saving measures to council on Monday.

One fund drive raised almost $10,000, according to Zappacosta, who told council he and his staff have implemented Saturday Fun Day for families at both libraries.

The library system also is planning to move from an “automated” to an “open” system as a cost-saving measure.

In the works is another fund drive, according to Zappacosta, who is working with his staff to be more “tech savvy” with more customer service.

Zappacosta anticipates another service to be offered at Halifax Library once the law library is moved from the courthouse there.

A public hearing has been set for the May 13 council meeting on the proposed $9,765,854 budget for 2013-14. The proposed budget contains no new taxes nor any increased taxes or fees. 


Finance report

Town Finance Officer Erle Scott reported revenues of $7,486,195 as of March 31, compared to expenditures of $7,974,310.

Revenues currently lag behind because of the town’s participation in the VDOT revenue sharing program.

“We’ve spent $800,000, and we’ll get back $400,000,” said Scott.

“We’ve spent $440,000 on Washington-Coleman, and that will come back when we close the loan,” Scott added.

The cash operating general fund had a balance of $2,675,050 as of March 31, according to Scott, who reported the following selected general fund revenues:

Categorical aid, $1,665,075, 62 percent of budget; current real estate, $841,671, 97 percent; current property tax, $488,817, 112 percent; property tax relief, $295,432, 100 percent; local taxes, $308,040, 80 percent; occupancy tax, $113,198, 91 percent; meals tax, $837,860, 80 percent; business license tax, $532,770, 109 percent of budget.

As of April 16, the town had collected a total of $146,635.75 in delinquent taxes, including penalties and interest, 112 percent of the goal for 2012-13.

Scott also reported the results of a special delinquent real estate notice mailing March 4 to approximately 350 tax parcels totaling $38,469.57.

The figure included principal and 10 percent penalty but not interest, according to Scott.

As of March 31, the town had collected $18,838,26 (current and delinquent real estate tax) from 128 parcels, with total penalties of $1,841.04 collected.


Public hearing set

Town Council advanced to its May 13 meeting agenda a public hearing on a special use permit by Troy Comer to operate a vehicle repair establishment at 1019 Wilborn Avenue, in a B-2 General Business District.