The City of Howell’s civic event policy was a focus of discussion during Monday night’s regular Council meeting and it all comes down to dollars and sense.

Recent civic event applications have been approved for Michigan Challenge Balloon Festival, Howell Melonfest and the Pink Party among others. City Council has been discussing a policy revision to charge back for a percentage of event-related costs, in part due to budget realities. The topic has surfaced at various times over the years. Both Council members and residents have raised various issues with the amount sponsors pay for staff, police and DPW services to facilitate different events.

After discussion Monday night, Council agreed that effective January 1st, 2019 the City will proceed with a 50% cost sharing policy for all civic events. For-profit and political groups already pay 100% of the costs incurred back to the City. Council members agreed the City cannot continue to subsidize 100% of costs for events, which require staff time and police presence in some cases. It was noted there are many worthwhile causes but the City can’t pick and choose considering budget stress and must really examine where funds are going because the money adds up. Mayor Nick Proctor commented the City does see an economic boost during big events and there are other intangible benefits such as bringing people into town. He felt the 50% was a good step and a fair, shared responsibility.

Howell City Manager Shea Charles says the City spends approximately $82,000-$85,000 depending on the events in a given year so they’ll look to recover half of what their actual costs are. He says the good news is the majority of the events they deal with are kind-of longstanding so they have a good sense of what it will take and providing estimates for community sponsors should be relatively easy. Charles says staff will be working on policy language as well as an updated application so entities applying for special events clearly understand the City will be charging 50% of costs for running those events. The civic event policy will brought back to Council for a formal vote at the June 11th meeting.