BROOKINGS – Members of the South Dakota State University Student Association explained to the Brookings City Council this week how important the SDSU Student Visitor Promotion Fund is for the city, as well as the university.
Ally Monson, president of the Students’ Association, and Corey Berscheit, vice president of the Students’ Association, addressed the council Tuesday evening during the second of three hearings on the 2020 city budget. City Manager Paul Briseno said the final hearing is set Sept. 24. The 2020 budget must be approved by Oct. 1, by law, he added.
Some changes were requested by the council at the previous meeting. Those changes were made, and the entire 2020 budget, as well as the Outside Agency Funding Comparison, are available as attachments to the agenda on the city’s website.
“This budget is one that helps build a stronger Brookings to be more fiscally responsible for years to come,” Briseno said.
Student Visitor Promotion
The 2020 budget is recommending $10,000 for the SDSU Student Visitor Promotion Fund. Monson and Berscheit asked that the council raise the amount back to the requested $50,000.
The 3B tax is a luxury tax for members of the community, “but for students who are required to purchase a meal plan, it’s a mandatory tax,” Berscheit said.
More students are now paying into the tax, and the duo think that’s unfair since the university will now be receiving less money from it, he added.
“We want to highlight once again that the Student Promotion Fund benefits both entities: the city of Brookings and SDSU students,” Berscheit said.
“Last year, the fund generated $44.96 return on investment and has an economic impact of $1.87 million,” Berscheit said.
Monson and Berscheit said there are 19 events, including 10 new opportunities, that plan on applying for the Student Promotion Fund this year, she said.
“The grand total of these events would be $157,740,” Monson said.
The events would include Hobo Day Rally at the Rails, SDSU Rodeo’s Jackrabbit Stampede, Little International, and the American Indian Student Association Wacipi Powwow.
“I understand that you do not have an easy decision to make tonight. Budget cuts are never easy,” Monson said, adding the university experienced a 22% cut to the general activity fee last year.
“This cut hurt all of our student organizations. To be frank, this fund is their lifeline,” Monson said.
No Rally at the Rails?
“Imagine a Hobo Day with no Rally at the Rails. Imagine a Jackrabbit Stampede with no place for 250 individuals to ride and the 4,000 spectators to sit. Imagine an International Night with no cultural food to enjoy. To me this does not sound like Brookings anymore. This does not sound like the vibrant community that students are attracted to,” Monson said.
Berscheit suggested the city give the Students’ Association quarterly updates on the 3B fund and he plans for the Students’ Association to report more frequently to the council.
“We encourage you to engage with our representative and ask questions about the budget crisis on campus,” Berscheit said.
It’s easy to look at the history of the fund and assume that since the funds are not fully utilized that they will not be in the future, Monson said, but the process has changed in the past three years. Utilization of the fund has increased each of the past three years, she added.
“This year, we’re expecting even greater utilization for the fund with our target and marketing scheme,” Monson said, adding they know there are organizations that plan to utilize the fund.
They do not see the city’s plan for the Student Promotion Fund and Convention and Visitors Bureau Fund as realistic, she added.
“Student organizations will be competing with other major city events. The reason that there are two funds is ’cause they serve the communities in different ways. It does not benefit the city to push this need up to another fund and take away from other events,” Monson said.
Many people assume that special events will always be there, but they won’t without the necessary funding, and “Brookings will not be Brookings anymore,” warned Berscheit.
Hobo Day generates money for city
Cole McDougall is public relations representative from the Hobo Day Committee.
“Hobo Day is a big user of the Student Promotion Fund. In fact, last year, we got a $17,000 allocation from the Student Promotion Fund, which generated a million dollars of revenue for the city,” McDougall said.
He said the Hobo Day Committee understands budget cuts are common this year, and they have consulted with the councilors on the subject.
“Since 2013, the Student Promotion Fund has been used by the Hobo Day Committee for multiple reasons, including the Bummobile, the parade, marketing and our summer parade tour, as well. The two big ones there that we used out of that fund are marketing and the (Hobo Day) parade,” McDougall said.
“We’ve previously asked for $14,500 all-around allocation from the Student Promotion Fund. This past year, we did increase that to $17,000,” McDougall said. “The reason was, we were moving Rally at the Rails to a Friday night” to engage more community members and “get more people into Brookings for this event,” he said.
The Hobo Day Committee has been working with other entities, including the SDSU Bookstore and the SDSU Foundation, McDougall said. The idea is so that they don’t have to ask the city for as much money, he added.
McDougall thanked the city for all its help over the past five years.
“We couldn’t have done this without you,” he said.
Councilor Holly Tilton Byrne said glancing through the packet information, she didn’t see where the motion was made at the last meeting to reassess the 3B fund and allocate some funds to the Student Promotion Fund.
“It’s just the budget that’s noted in here,” Briseno said, adding it could be brought forward at the end of the year.
“For clarification, I believe the motion was, that at the end of the year, city council will reassess the additional revenues that should come from the 3B beyond what was budgeted, and then reallocate those accordingly,” Briseno said.
City Attorney Steve Britzman said a motion should be made to include the previously adopted motion as part of the budget.
The motion was made and seconded.
Councilor Nick Wendell pointed out the 3B numbers were only projections at this time and the council will revisit the numbers when they can see where the projections really wind up at the end of the year.
“If we’re ahead of the current projection, then we would look at the first priority for those dollars to go to the Visitor Promotions Fund,” Wendell said.
It would help the council to understand the revenue outcome and the usage, he added.
Britzman suggested nailing down the timeline for the evaluation for those numbers. Briseno said the best time would be a month after close of receipts, in later January, with the council getting the numbers by early February. The receipts always lag a month, he said; for instance, receipts from August are just now coming in September.
Wendell asked the student reps in the audience if the late January/early February timeline would give them enough time for fall 2020 events.
The motion passed unanimously.
Contact Jodelle Greiner at [email protected]