By PAUL SIMS
The Starkville Visitors and Convention Council voted to do something Wednesday rare among publicly-funded agencies these days – add a significant amount to savings.
The panel decided to transfer $65,000 from its checking account to a savings fund and did so after receiving an audit report, a primary item of interest being the spike in the organization’s fund balance.
The report, prepared by accountants at T.E. Lott and Co., showed the community’s tourism organization held $153,645 in their two accounts, with checking holding $99,880 and savings storing $53,765, at the close of the most recent fiscal year.
Tourism officials are moving money from a checking account which now holds $115,321.39. This leaves $50,321.39 in the account.
Jennifer Gregory, the Greater Starkville Development Partnership’s vice president for tourism development, says officials mainly attribute the revenue increase to visitors in Starkville and Oktibbeha County.
This is primarily due to the success of the Mississippi State University football program and other successful events which take place in the community, she said.
“We’re very excited” about the fiscal year’s ending fund balance and “we are cautiously optimistic that this trend will continue,” Gregory said after Wednesday’s meeting. “However, we are aware of the national and statewide economic climate, so we plan to continue to spend in a fiscally responsible way.”
Later on Wednesday, Gregory added: “Not everyone is experiencing what we are by any means.”
Officials will most likely entertain the idea of moving forward with projects or recommendations from the upcoming charette that may be partially funded by the excess balance, leaving some of the fund in reserve, she said.
“As monthly receipts showed revenue growing, we still remained within our budget” and finished under what the spending plan called for, Gregory said.
Starkville’s Convention and Visitors Bureau operates with one of the lowest budgets in the geographic region, Gregory said.
There are a number of advertising and other efforts officials would like to accomplish “but we are limited by our budget,” Gregory said.
The Starkville Convention and Visitors Bureau operates on 15 percent of the city’s 2 percent hotel and restaurant taxes, while the remainder is split four other ways.
It breaks down as follows: Starkville Parks and Recreation Department (40 percent), Mississippi State University (20 percent), the Oktibbeha County Economic Development Authority (15 percent) and the city (10 percent).
“The excess revenue shows that what we are doing and what our tourism partners are doing is really working to bring in more visitors but we still only collect a small portion of that revenue,” Gregory added.