Some local festivals and events might have to cut back or find new funding sources next year.
Under Sedgwick County Manager William Buchanan's budget proposal, the county will eliminate its funding for the Wichita River Festival and the Preferred Health Systems Wichita Open golf tournament.
"It's kind of caught us off guard," said Janet Wright, president and CEO of Wichita Festivals. "It will be interesting."
The Riverfest received $25,000 in 2011 from the county through its fund for community programs. The allocation acted as a general sponsorship, rather than paying for a specific event, Wright said.
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The county also provided $7,500 for the Wichita Open, which tournament director Roy Turner said paid for the off-duty sheriff's officers who worked security at the tournament. Because the tournament donates its profit to charities, a local charity will miss out on $7,500 next year, Turner said.
The county also will eliminate $15,000 it gave to the Wichita Art Museum for an exhibit last year.
The county will still provide funding for some other festivals, including about $22,000 for the Kansas Junior Livestock Show and about $30,000 for the Sedgwick County Fair.
Deciding which festivals to fund wasn't made based on their value to the community, said Ron Holt, assistant county manager.
"We recognize all of these programs as being good for the community," he said.
The county has formal contracts to fund several groups so money for those organizations was not eliminated, he said. But the county has proposed reducing funding for most of them.
For instance, the Kansas African American Museum is slated to receive about $173,000 in next year's budget, down about 6 percent from a year ago.
The plans for funding those groups still has to go before the county commission for approval.
Organizations that receive funding from the county — like the Riverfest and the Wichita Open — fall into a category for ad hoc allocations, Holt said. The county had funded both the Riverfest and the Wichita Open for several years, but the groups had to make an annual request.
The county does not plan to fund any ad hoc groups this year, Holt said.
"The key here is to give them notice well ahead of time," he said.
The Riverfest has about $1 million in cash expenses so the money from the county really helped, Wright said.
Does she know how she will replace the funding?
"I wish I did," she said.
Wright said the festival has struggled to find funding in the past three years as companies hurt for money.
"It's difficult out there," she said. "People are still nervous."
If she can't make up the funding, Wright said she would have to cut expenses.
The county originally eliminated funding for the Riverfest — along with the Wichita Flight Festival — in last year's budget.
But members of Wichita Festivals spoke with county commissioners near the end of 2010. County commissioners made a separate decision outside of the budgeting process and passed a motion to provide the funding, Holt said.
If the current budget passes, that approach will not work next year, he said. By eliminating funding for all ad hoc allocations, only the groups the county has contracts with can request money through the community programs fund.
Turner said he recognizes the difficulties the county is facing.
"They have a very difficult job, and I thank them for what they did in the past for us," he said.
However, he also said it is a common practice for local governments to support their PGA Tour events and that he thinks the Wichita Open has showed its worth as an investment.
This year's tournament raised a record $200,000 for 15 charities, including the Children's Miracle Network and the YMCA, he said. The Wichita Open's operating budget is about $1 million.
Turner said he hopes the county can restore funding in the future.
"I think they're all well aware that we have to look to the future and grow this town and make it a better place to live every year," he said.
Public hearings on the budget will be held at commission meetings at 9 a.m. Wednesday and 7 p.m. Aug. 2 on the third floor of the courthouse, 525 N. Main.
Commissioners plan to adopt the budget at their meeting Aug. 3.
Holt said he hopes the decision to eliminate funding for the ad hoc groups isn't permanent.
"When times get better, a different decision might be possible," he said.