Flaggs expects better accountability from events requesting city funding

Published 5:40 pm Monday, February 3, 2020

The Board of Mayor and Aldermen will continue supporting local events, Mayor George Flaggs Jr. said, but organizations will have to provide benchmarks, like anticipated attendance, to get funding.

Flaggs’ comments came after a request from the Vicksburg-Warren Chamber of Commerce for $5,000 in city funds for its Feb. 8 Second Saturday program at Monday’s meeting of the Board of Mayor and Aldermen. The item was approved on the board’s consent agenda.

Flaggs said he was tired of event organizers putting on events like Second Saturday that fail to generate attendance and then come to the city for funding.

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Second Saturday began in June and is held on the second Saturday of each month. While attendance for the first few events was good, it has dwindled since, which was one reason Flaggs decided to cut funding.

“I told the chamber, ‘That’s the last dime we spend on promoting Second Saturday,’” he said. “I’ll promote Second Saturday, I’ll promote anything this city wants to have, but you can’t create these programs and think the city’s going to fund it.”

When the board approved its fiscal 2020 budget in August the budget for advertising was set at $250,000 city accounting director Doug Whittington said. The amount was a reduction from fiscal 2019.

“I believe in performance — benchmarks,” Flaggs said. 

“When you look at the benchmarks — the kind of money we’re spending (on events) — we’re not drawing the number of people I think we should be drawing in the downtown area,” he said after the meeting. “It’s a hit or miss. I just think if the city is going to put money into programs, they need to give us benchmarks in the future.”

When the Vicksburg Convention Center asks the board for money, he said, “We ask, ‘How many people are you expecting? How many are going to stay in hotels?”

The board, he said, needs benchmarks, goals, from the organization seeking funds.

“We’re going to provide funds and ask to be a sponsor in a lot of these programs, but we’re going to have to have more accountability and ask for benchmarks so these programs are meeting our expectations,” Flaggs said.

“This is taxpayers’ money, and we want to make sure they get the best return for their dollar,” he said. “It’s like a business; if it’s not meeting expectations, the benchmark, it means that we’re losing. You can’t sink money into a sinking hole.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

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