Macon City Council likely to revisit Cherry Blossom Festival, museums' funding

A proposal to cut funding for the Cherry Blossom Festival and redistribute the money to two downtown museums is likely to resurface tonight.

Macon City Council is set to take up the matter again after the council’s Appropriations Committee on Monday approved the plan for a second time.

In December, the full council sent the resolution back to committee after the panel first approved it. Council members asked for more information on economic impact and the finances of the various entities involved.

If the resolution is passed, the Tubman African American Museum and the Georgia Children’s Museum stand to gain new revenue streams through reallocation of the hotel/motel tax, so that two-thirds of what the festival receives is sent to those facilities instead.

In dollar amounts, the festival’s current-year budget suggests the $45,000 it gets from the city in bed tax revenue would be cut to $15,000.

Officials have said they don’t know what the true impact would be, and a study completed by the Middle Georgia Regional Development Commission did little to assuage the concerns of advocates on either side of the issue.

However, Lee Robinson, chairman of the festival’s board, said a drop in funding could be a death blow to the annual spring event and would force it to shut down.

“This is a serious thing, and it does have serious ramifications,” he said.

If passed by the city, the resolution still remains only a request. It actually is up to local state legislators to decide whether the hotel/motel tax should be shifted, and if so, to what degree. That is why, proponents of the proposal say, the city needs to pass the resolution now so that it can be taken up when the General Assembly convenes next week.

“We need to go ahead and get this into their court,” Councilwoman Elaine Lucas said.

To contact staff writer Matt Barnwell, call 744-4251.