URBANA – The city council next week will consider giving $18,800 toward promoting tourism after discussing the funding again Monday night.
The debate over the reduced number was again contentious, with Convention and Visitors Bureau director Jayne DeLuce trying to prove her agency’s worth to a skeptical city council and steadfast Mayor Laurel Prussing.
“They're not bringing more people here,” said Prussing, repeating her earlier convictions that the $72,000 the city had previously given to the bureau was not generating any return on investment.
The city council, in general, is looking for more accountability from the visitors bureau. To this point, even after city officials had crunched the available data, it is still hard to put a definitive dollar amount on the bureau’s value to the city. DeLuce has said her agency’s economic impact is in the millions; Prussing has said it is negligible.
DeLuce faced questioning from council members on Monday as they deliberated whether to give some money back to the agency – she found some support in Alderwoman Heather Stevenson’s comments.
“To say that it's inflated and that she didn't bring any new people is absurd,” Stevenson said.
DeLuce said Prussing’s earlier veto of the funding has put incredible pressure on the visitors bureau’s budget, and said she hopes that she can meet informally with city officials to review the available data and explain what it means.
In other business, the council tabled an informal vote on a proposed storm water utility fee, which would be charged to home and business owners for the demand their properties put on the city’s sewer system.
“Because of our limited funds available and more infrastructure failing, that's kind of where we're at," said civil engineer Brad Bennett.
City officials estimate the fee could be roughly $60 annually for average homeowners. It could be in the hundreds for businesses, and in some cases, the thousands.
An extreme case would be the Supervalu Inc. property in north Urbana, which has an extensive roof and parking lot, on which the fee is based. The impermeable surface of that property is roughly that of 642 average homes, Bennett said, which could produce an annual charge upwards of $37,000.
The council will discuss the fee again in two weeks.