Council majority rejects fee waiver for parades but councilmen donate

Santa Paula City Council

A deeply split City Council rejected the request of the Optimist Club to waive fees for annual parades, but two councilmen who voted against the action are going to fund the Halloween Parade.

Mayor Fred Robinson and Councilman Jim Tovias are also going to ask the community to help raise the money to stage the 66th Annual Optimist Club Christmas Parade, the oldest such procession in Ventura County.

Tovias said Thursday he and Robinson donated $300 each to finance the Halloween Parade.

City natives, “We both used to walk in that parade,” as costumed children. 

“We’re going to try to get the citizens to ante up for the Christmas Parade… I think we have enough time and hopefully, next year the city,” will again be able to absorb the costs of special events staged by nonprofits.

Monday a deeply divided council bickered over the request of Optimist Club members to waive the fees, initiated earlier this year in the wake of the city’s reported financial crisis.

Fees for permits, street crew and public safety even at a council adopted Special Event discounted rate, would have been $590 for the Halloween Parade and a whopping $2,484 – including the $220 deposit – for the Christmas Parade.

City Manager Jaime Fontes told the council at the October 3 meeting that the city had to overcome a projected $1.8 million deficit that required layoffs, salary reductions and work furloughs among other cost-cutting measures.

He noted the initial fee structure was reduced by 28 percent to better accommodate nonprofit events and 16 events have paid the new costs.

Fontes cautioned the council that if they agreed to the waiver other organizations would want “similar adjustments… ”  

Halloween Parade Chairman David Gillette said the procession has been held for more than four decades. Up to 600 children wear costumes that are judged for a contest, march and then are rewarded by the Kiwanis Club with a ribbon and candy bar.

Gillette said the parades do not generate revenue and “We have two fundraisers each year and these parade fees would wipe us out… ” 

Ron Merson, Christmas Parade Chairman for 29 years, said Optimist does not charge entry fees and pays incidental costs such as for trophies.

The parades “Create a buzz… ” 

The Christmas Parade is filmed and shown throughout Ventura County, garners positive press coverage and brings visitors that eat in area restaurants and visit local attractions. 

The Optimist Club would have to “make a tough decision” if the city would not waive fees.

Merson added, “I don’t think there is any relevance between parades” and other revenue generating activities.  

Vice Mayor Bob Gonzales noted the Kiwanis Club Citrus Parade was cancelled due to the new fees and, “I think it’s wrong for these organizations providing service to the community,” to pay fees.

Councilman Ralph Fernandez agreed asking, “Does it benefit the community? If so it is the responsibility of the council to support it… ”

The other council members said they supported the nonprofits but city costs must be recovered and all treated equitably. 

Fernandez and Gonzales voted to waive fees but were they defeated, 3-2. 

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