By BRIAN SMITH
Every year, local and community organizations petition the Weatherford City Council for funding as part of the upcoming budget process.
With the council preparing to launch into some tough budget choices for the fiscal 2014 budget, seven such groups made their presentations during a special meeting Tuesday. The requests total $284,400.
Five of the seven groups received money in 2013, the Weatherford Chamber of Commerce receiving the most at $121,400 out of the city’s Hotel Occupancy Tax, or HOT monies.
The chamber asked for the same amount this year. Chamber President Tammy Gazzola said tourism the chamber helps promote brings in new money to the city and also helps diversify the economy.
Through the first quarter of the year, HOT monies are up 12.4 percent from a year ago, showing the chamber and other entities are doing the job in bringing tourism not only to Weatherford but statewide.
Three other groups sought HOT monies. Doss Heritage and Culture Center Executive Director Heather Castagna said the center is bringing in 2,200 visitors a month, or more than 26,000 a year, up from the 19,600 visitors the center estimates it had in 2013.
“We had visitors from 35 states and abroad, including Tanzania and Denmark, so far this year,” Castagna said. “We are trying to preserve Parker County’s heritage through displays and exhibits and we have something going on here nearly every weekend.”
Castagna said a new outdoor wedding space has been a big hit as it is booked with 23 weddings the rest of the year and also has bookings in 2014. Seventy percent of wedding guests come from out of town, Castagna said, giving the center ample opportunity to put “heads in beds.”
Doss officials received $21,700 from the city last year and asked for $50,000 this year.
Texas Opry Theater officials received no HOT monies last year and are asking for $48,000 in 2014. Marilyn Carter with the Opry said the facility had visitors from 89 cities over the last year. More than half the visitors to the Opry come from out of town, spend money in local restaurants and hotels and enjoy local attractions, Carter said.
“We want to make Weatherford a destination city,” Carter said. “All the promotion and advertising we do is spent to help put heads in beds.”
Theatre Off the Square also received no money from the council in 2013, but said monies given to the organization this year would go toward an electronic marquee sign to promote the theatre and other local events, according to Laurie Jones, president of the Parker County Fine Arts Association.
The all-volunteer organization, which has a number of its 400 volunteers come from out of town, spent 37,500 hours of time working to promote the organization. Jones said people came from 85 cities and eight states to view the eight plays put on by the organization over the last 12 months.
General fund requests
Three groups requested funds out of the city’s general fund budget. Center of Hope Director of Operations Paula Hood said the Weatherford location of Center of Hope received $10,000 from the city last year and would continue to use any funds given for the benefit of those in the city itself.
The organization provides assistance for many people in the city, providing $27,290 for utility bills for city residents last year. Hood says Center of Hope provides many more services besides financial.
“We offer tutoring and life advisors and help those in need of work find it by conducting mock interviews and reviewing resumés,” Hood said. “Because of the work we do, businesses contact us looking for candidates.”
Freedom House of Parker County Executive Director Catherine Teitjen told the council her organization served 348 Weatherford residents alone last year and made good use of the $15,000 it was given. Teitjen said to receive further monies from other organizations, it needed to show that it was supported in the community.
She said an increase in the amount of males coming in saying they are victims of sexual assault and family violence is increasing. The group also worked with 12 cases of human trafficking over the last budget year.
Glenda Webb, executive director of the Parker County Committee on Aging, said the organization received $30,000 last year and was asking for the same amount in 2014. Providing transportation for elderly clients, operation of the Senior Center and providing Meals on Wheels for 125 residents in the city keeps many people independent. Last year alone, 52,900 meals were delivered countywide with another 12,173 served at the Senior Center in a group setting, Webb said.
“We also offer a food pantry that gets donations from a number of food drives and the Hudson Oaks Walmart,” Webb said.Mayor Dennis Hooks said every budget is a balancing act and the council’s job is to take care of its citizens.
No decisions were made at Tuesday’s meeting but are expected over the next several weeks.
The 2014 fiscal year budget year begins Oct. 1.