Groups Seeking SECA Funds Need To Ante Up

The City of Naperville has a successful revenue stream called the SECA (Special Events And Cultural Amenities) program funded by a food and beverage tax. It was established in 2004 and the fund was capped at $1.9 million. From that, $1.1 million is funneled for city obligations including Fourth of July fireworks, Riverwalk maintenance, the municipal band, DuPage Children’s Museum debt, Carillon maintenance, with a portion towards NDP (Naperville Development Partnership) funding. The remaining $800,000 is allocated through grants to numerous projects requesting funding including the Last Fling and Rib Fest, among many others. In 2018, 62 projects are seeking SECA money.

Getting money into the program is easy through the food and beverage tax. Getting money out of the fund is not quite so easy, for those requesting the grants, and for those determining who gets what and how much. With more and more groups asking for grants, and more and more groups wanting more and more dollars, it can get tricky. That makes for more and more groups feeling either left out, or short changed. More and more and more is the common denominator.

Two options include giving more dollars to fewer groups, or giving fewer dollars to more groups. A third option is to request that groups asking for grants ante up more dollars on their part. In other words, putting more ‘skin into the game’. There are only so many dollars to go around, so sooner or later the guidelines and requirements need to change. It appears sooner has arrived.

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  1. Gerard H Schilling

    There is a fourth option which is to eliminate the tax in the first place which is discriminatory in that it picks on only two types of businesses and their patrons. Further, it becomes a cesspool for politicians buying votes and support by doling out dollars to those organizations which support the current administration.

    Taxation without representation was one of the reason this country was created initially. This is just one more abuse of stealing money from one group to give to another or income redistribution. Let’s at least call it what it is so decisions whether to keep it can be made.

  2. Jim Haselhorst

    The SECA fund at one point was over $ 3 million dollars, but city council voted to start diverting some of the food and beverage tax dollars away from SECA (initially only a few $100 thousand) into a fund that is spent at city council and the mayor’s discretion. Over the years exactly how, what as become easily 2/3 of the food and beverage tax revenue, is being spent has become less and less transparent. And while the reduction of this cap in stages to its present $1.9 million has created this shortage it is the elimination of the annual COLA (or CPI) adjustment to this cap that will cause more an more groups to be left out.

    Remember this fund was create as a compromise between the charitable groups that host these fund raising events and the city when the city adopted a policy of charging hosts for city services provided for these event (most cities provide these services as part of the city’s commitment to public safety). The city requires these groups to use city staff/services rather then private contractor/service providers for most of the resources used when hosting these events. The event host first goes to the city and presents its event plan (nature of event, locations, time, etc), the city staff then decides what roads to close and when, how many police, fire and emergency responders are required, etc. The city personal supporting these events are working hours over their regular 40/wk so they are to be paid overtime. Using the manpower and resources city staff decides are needed they then provide the event host with a bill. This bill usually make up all but a small portion of the event host’s SECA request.

    So an alternative to requiring event hosts to pulling more skin in the game would be to allow them to have more control and say in what city services and personnel they will use. Believe me if given the opportunity most event hosts would be happy to reduce their costs by replacing expensive city services with less expensive private contractor or service providers. This would mean reduced SECA requests and more SECA dollars going into local businesses but also less SECA dollars going back into the city coffers. I am sure at this point the Watchdog see the problem here.

    It is important to remember that SECA events a generally charity fund raising events which means the proceeds (profits) go to charitable causes in our community. Every dollar not spent on costly city services is another dollar back into the communities charitable cause.

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