The 2015 Sturtevant fireworks are still a go, but trustees next week will vote on whether or not to keep intact a village fund that supports the fireworks if the event fails to raise enough money to cover expenses.
After residents voted down last week a referendum to add to the village budget for five years to help fund the annual fireworks and increase funding for parks, trustees were hoping to hear from residents Tuesday about how best to move forward.
Seven citizens attended the committee meeting Tuesday and participated in a discussion that revolved around whether or not to continue planning the 2015 fireworks or divert those funds to village parks.
Trustees Gary Johnson and Chris Larsen voiced opinions against any further involvement with an annual fireworks display. For both board members, the failure of the referendum was a clear directive to discontinue any village support for the fireworks.
Johnson pointed out that while the fireworks are self-supporting through donations before and ticket sales during the event, any potential costs not covered would be borne by the village. He included the amount built into police and public works budgets for security, set up and clean up as well.
“Whatever the staffing costs are for police and public works should be raised by the fireworks committee,” he said. “The taxpayers are on the hook for any shortage, and the residents said no.”
Estimated costs for police and DPW for the fireworks range from $8,000 to $9,000 and are not included in the annual event budget.
Larsen agreed and said he would rather see time, attention and money used for parks because they’re a bigger value to the village.
“The board in 2007 made the commitment to taxpayers that the village would not pay for the fireworks, and we have to uphold that,” he said. “I would rather focus our efforts on something that’s used year-round like the parks … we have to look at what is a bigger value to the village.”
Part of the issue with the fireworks is the lack of citizen participation in the planning for the event and the fundraising activities leading up to the holiday. Trustee Jayme Hoffman confirmed that two members of the committee quit after the referendum failed, and two more are taking a break because they’re burned out. All four have been involved since 2007 when the village stopped paying for the fireworks.
“People are burned out, and if we don’t get some new members who do more than say they love the fireworks then I don’t see how this can keep going after this year,” he said.
Resident Michelle Sheckles said that if the village budget can’t support park maintenance that fundraising dollars go into parks instead of the fireworks.
“The parks are used every day, and the equipment is broken, swings are disintegrating so how can you say you won’t do anything for parks?” she said.
Trustee Chris Wright pointed out, though, that while the referendum failed, the message from residents wasn’t to not have the fireworks or to not budget for parks; instead, citizens voted against providing any extra money for those things.
“This was a vote against extra, not the status quo,” he said. “I recommend we move forward with the 2015 budget as prepared, which includes a crappy parks budget and the fireworks.”
Larsen said he will introduce an amendment at the board meeting next week to move $5,000 for parks maintenance from the village’s fireworks fund, a move Village President Steve Jansen supports.
“I support this move. It’s a start,” he said. “In the meantime, I put out a plea to get some new blood involved with the fireworks. Fundraising has to be priority number one.”