Three organizations will receive financial assistance from the town of Solvang, but the application for a fourth group was filed after councilor Robert Clarke offered to pay the fees the youth football league had asked to be waived.
On Monday evening, the city council considered applications from Solvang Theaterfest, Solvang Senior Center and Santa Ynez Valley Rotary Club, granting each pitch funding.
“There are all wonderful organizations out there,” Councilwoman Claudia Orona said, asking what the point of the city’s transitory sales and occupancy tax increase is “if we’re not going to use it on the community when she needs it”.
The article passed by a 4 to 1 vote with Clarke opposed, but donating $450 to the Santa Ynez Valley Pirate Football League for the cost of hanging a banner in the city .
The demands came as Solvang saw some post-COVID-19 revenue rates return after a sharp drop in 2020 due to the pandemic, City Manager Xenia Bradford said.
The Solvang Festival Theater is currently undergoing an estimated $5.3 million renovation project. The organization raised $4.5 million and asked the city for $100,000 for the current fiscal year, plus $100,000 for the next two years.
Monday’s agenda item focused only on current-year funding requests, with future funding to be considered during the city’s biennial budget deliberations before July 1.
The Solvang Festival Theater remained dark in 2020 due to public health concerns and had a limited season in 2021, which hurt revenue.
Backers hope to hold events beyond the PCPA productions once the renovation project is complete. Construction began after the end of the 2021 season.
“We look forward to an expanded schedule of activities for Theaterfest, unlike what we had before,” said board member Chris Nielsen.
The organization said the city’s funding will restore and expand the events for future seasons.
About 40% of theater patrons come from outside Solvang, stay at local hotels and eat at local restaurants.
“Everyone wins when the theater is over – the businesses, the community, the actors, everyone. We will also be reinstating all of the traditional events the theater has held over the years,” said executive director Scott Coe. “We can see it – it’s about 94 days away, so we’re really excited.”
The Solvang Senior Center requested a waiver of municipal fees, totaling $7,900, for its renovation project.
“As you all know, our elderly population is growing every day and our settlement is deteriorating every day. We appreciate your consideration,” said Steering Committee Co-Chair Tom Olmsted.
However, the senior center is expected to return in the future with greater demand as it prepares to undertake a $3 million renovation while continuing to serve the community. Volunteers raised $2.6 million to achieve this goal.
In the third request, Rotary of Santa Ynez asked for $25,000 for the annual 4th of July fireworks display, which takes place in Solvang.
Previously, the city provided $10,000 for the fireworks display.
The Santa Ynez Pirate Football League requested a waiver of the $450 fee for displaying a banner for two weeks.
League executives said COVID-19 has taken a big chunk out of fundraising opportunities while the organization also grapples with rising playing field rental costs.
The league did not leave empty-handed, even though the board did not approve the request.
Clarke, noting that he had raised funds for other projects, said he would provide the $450 to cover banner costs, adding that he was wary of other multiple requests.
“I don’t know in two months which five groups are going to ask us for taxpayers’ money. It’s not our money,” he said.
He added that he supports Theaterfest’s demands because patrons, many of whom are visitors to the valley, are increasing the city’s coffers and the senior center because the city should do “everything we can to seniors”.