Compromise reached on museum, Cherry Blossom Festival funding

It appears that funding for Macon’s Cherry Blossom Festival will be made secure for now.

City officials said Thursday that a compromise had been reached between Mayor Robert Reichert’s administration and Councilman Mike Cranford on his proposal to reroute hotel/motel tax revenue away from the festival and send it instead to the Georgia Children’s Museum and the Tubman African American Museum.

Rather than drawing down the festival’s funding, Reichert instead will propose an adjustment to this year’s budget that provides $25,000 to each of the museums. The money will come from the city’s unallocated reserve, which is largely made up of funds that have been set aside from unfilled staff positions.

“Two organizations expressed a need, and we answered their call,” said Keith Moffett, Reichert’s director of internal affairs.

The solution, assuming it meets with the full council’s approval, provides a one-time source of income for the museums. In the meantime, administration officials have a chance to re-examine the way Macon funds and contracts with outside organizations and determine to what degree the city budget should be a future source of money for the facilities.

Cranford said he is satisfied with the proposal. He said his intent was not to harm the festival but to provide funding for two additional deserving organizations.

“It accomplishes the goal,” he said of the mayor’s proposal.

Cranford’s resolution had asked that the two museums each get 2 percent of hotel/motel tax revenue.

Their funding stream would have been created by cutting the festival’s share of the tax from 6 percent to 2 percent. Festival officials have said the funding cut could devastate their organization.

Since the legislation was offered last year, it has been bandied back and forth between Cranford’s Appropriations Committee and the full council. It was slated to be voted on again Thursday by the committee, but Cranford delayed consideration of the measure in anticipation of Reichert’s submitting the budget adjustment.

The council has remained fairly evenly split on votes that either advanced or held up Cranford’s resolution. Still, even if it were to pass, the resolution represents only a request to state legislators, who have the final say over the way hotel/motel taxes are split.