A&P Commission delays funding discussion

Alderman Matthew Petty, who also serves on the Fayetteville Advertising and Promotion Commission, speaks Monday during the commission’s regular meeting inside the Fayetteville Town Center.

Todd Gill

Fayetteville Advertising and Promotion commissioners on Monday delayed a discussion about possible changes to their biannual funding process for events and projects whose organizers ask for financial help.

The topic arose in November after commissioners Matthew Petty and Hannah Withers said the process was confusing and needs an overhaul.

For example, the funding application organizers must fill out states that a group can only apply for money once per year, but some groups regularly apply for – and receive – awards for several events and projects throughout the year.

The application also states that it is not the intent of the commission to fund projects that don’t need financial help, yet organizations like the University of Arkansas’ athletic department have received thousands of dollars to help promote sports events in Fayetteville.

Concerns also include language in the application that suggests awards should be considered as “seed money,” even though some organizations have been requesting and receiving funds for events that are many years old.

Aside from cleaning up the language in the application, commissioners have some tough decisions to make if the goal is to remove any gray areas from their guidelines.

Petty and Withers seem adamant about making sure their grants only go to groups that truly need financial help, while other commissioners favor a more lenient process that allows them to make token gestures to some of the larger groups who contribute to the city’s economy in other ways.

“There are certain ways this commission has practiced through the years that are sometimes not congruent with the actual guidelines,” said commission chair Ching Mong on Monday. “However, whatever we come up with…we don’t want to put so many restrictions on ourselves that we put ourselves in a corner where we can’t do anything.”

The group was set to take up the issue at the end of Monday’s meeting, but decided to put the issue on hold until February after other business lasted longer than expected.

Other business

Aside from hearing annual reports from each department head, the group also re-elected Mong as its chair, and conducted its annual evaluation of executive director Marilyn Heifner.

The commission approved a 5 percent raise for Heifner, citing increased tax collections, good management of employee turnover, and another profitable year at the Fayetteville Town Center. Heifner’s annual salary is now $88,200. She has received a 5 percent pay increase for several years in a row.

Heifner said hotel, motel and restaurant tax collections were $2.63 million in 2013, a 5.6 percent increase over 2012 when the commission received $2.52 million (see full report below).

HMR tax collections (2010-2013)