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Urbana Mayor Vetoes Convention & Visitors Bureau Funding

The decision by the mayor of Urbana to veto city funding for the Champaign County Convention and Visitors Bureau will only hurt the city in the long run, according to the group's president Jayne DeLuce.

Mayor Laurel Prussing said the agency has not been effective, and that the nearly $72,000 in the budget for the CVB could be used to help fill two police vacancies instead.

But DeLuce said cutting funding will limit the CVB's ability to promote events like the Illinois Marathon and state high school athletic tournaments, and facilities like hotels and convention spaces. She said she will attend an Urbana City Council committee meeting on July 11th to defend her agency's work.

"We're not looking back in five years and saying, 'Wow, how come we don't have that event here anymore? How come nothing new has happened anymore? Why are our tax revenues staying plateaued or not increasing?' And when you decrease local funding, that's what happens," DeLuce said.

But right now, Prussing said she does not believe the CVB's claim that it has generated 7.2% of hotel room nights in Urbana, for an economic impact of over $3.1 million, according to a formula used by the state Office of Tourism.

"I think most of the tourists that come to Urbana and Champaign come here because of the University of Illinois," Prussing said. "I don't think that the tourism bureau has much of an impact. They can't measure their impact. No business in Urbana has told me they have an impact on that business."

A statement from DeLuce said one Urbana businessman --- Adam Friederich of the Comfort Suites Hotel --- credits the Convention and Visitors Bureau for nearly 10% of their budget revenues so far this year.

But Prussing said the city needs the money budgeted for the CVB to help close a nearly $1 million budget gap --- one that may get wider, once a new police contract is settled through binding arbitration.

Prussing said the idea for cutting CVB funding to help address the budget shortfall came from Alderman Charlie Smyth.

Smyth said he brought up the proposal last month, to contrast it with proposed cuts to social service funding --- something he said is an easy target because the people served by such funding do not have the political voice of local business interests. But Smyth said he has not reached a final decision yet.

Categories: Business, Government, Politics