Municipal Band budget sparks questions, debate

March 6, 2019

STERLING — What otherwise would be a tame discussion of the proposed Municipal Band budget turned into a lively debate at Monday’s City Council meeting.

As City Manager Scott Shumard wrapped up his short preview of this budget, he asked if there were any questions. Alderman John Stauter immediately leaned forward in his seat.

“I’ve got a lot of questions, starting with when I asked about donations I was told they were up, but these numbers say the opposite,” Stauter said. “I was told the tickets to the concerts were 1,800 and it used to be 2,700. The summer municipal band is one of the jewels of Sterling, and I feel we’re not watching what we’re doing.”

Stauter addressed some members of the Municipal Band Commission in the audience and emphasized he was not trying to be critical of the band itself, but just was concerned there was a lack of tracking of some finances as to what the money was being spent on and why donations and attendance appeared to be dropping.

“I love what you do, but my concern is for the accountability of some numbers,” he said.

The 2018-19 fiscal year budget called for almost $116,000 for revenues for the Band Commission but was amended to $94,400 after the donations came in about $20,000 short from a projected $45,000 to an amended amount of $25,600.

“Donations are down because our donors are older and they’re dying. That’s the honest truth,” Band Commission member Allen Lee told the council.

He also explained a significant increase of $30,500 in expenses in the Building and Equipment Replacement funds in FY2018-19.

“We didn’t understand we were responsible for some repairs and cleanup, and we upgraded the sound system,” Lee said.

He assured Stauter and the council that the commission is trying hard to get back to a point of knowing exactly where their funds are used.

“We’re addressing the spending model, and last year we attempted to identify everything that was being spent,” Lee said. “That spending model is not sustainable. We have to find a replacement. We’re in the process of trying to watch where the money is going, and we can show you now where the funds are going.”

Sterling Mayor Skip Lee said he was confident the Band Commission was working hard to get back to financial accountability.

The budget for fiscal year 2019-20 reflects about $97,500 in revenues, of which about 60 percent are from property taxes. About $27,000 is projected for donations, which is more in line with what was received last year.

Also, expenses are up slightly from last year’s amended budget of about $140,000 to almost $143,000, which includes a raise in pay per performance for 65 band members, four guest conductors/soloists and additional advertising.