Vidalia Riverfront forecast to be $500,000 in hole

Published 12:03 am Saturday, July 11, 2015

VIDALIA — The City of Vidalia budget adopted Thursday contained a 3 percent across the board raise for employees, $304,500 available for electricity rebates for retail customers and a $3 million surplus.

But it also predicts the city’s conference and convention fund will spend approximately $500,000 more than it takes in.

City of Vidalia Accountant Ashley Anderson said part of the reason the conference and convention costs — a projected $843,900 — exceed its anticipated revenues — $350,000 — is because the budget is for more than just the convention center itself.

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“The Vidalia Conference and Convention Center’s budget encompasses the entire riverfront, not just the building itself, including all maintenance and security,” Anderson said in an email.

The convention building also serves as a community center for the citizens of Vidalia, Anderson said, and when the center is used for that purpose the rental fee is waived.

“The town absorbs all overhead expenses in these instances,” she said.

The costs are covered by transfers from the town’s hotel-motel occupancy fund and the general fund equally, Anderson said.

Most of the convention center budget projected costs — $553,000 — were tied to personnel services, including salaries and wages, health insurance, WIC insurance and benefits for 14 employees. Most other line item costs for the convention center were reduced from the 2015 budget year to the 2016 year, resulting in a projected $11,000 reduction in total costs.

One area of the convention center’s budget grew significantly, however. No money was spent in 2015 for convention center marketing, but $25,000 was added for advertising in 2016.

“The $25,000 increase to this year’s budget allows the (contention center) director to market for new business,” Anderson said.

The apparent $4 million increase in revenues — to a total of $42,078,500 for 2016 — and $3 million increase in spending — to a total of $39,029,525 in 2016 — over last year is because of funds being given to the city by the state for the port project.

“This money from the State of Louisiana Capital Outlay Fund will be used to complete the port including the access road, utilities to the site and land acquisition,” Anderson said. Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland did not return a phone message asking for further comment on the budget. Thursday night he said he was pleased with the final product and said the budget was one of the best the city has had.