They call it the “biggest fireworks show in the Valley” – but now they need help paying for it.
Members of the Livingston Fourth of July Committee appealed to the City Council during its regular meeting Tuesday, asking for help to pay off $5,441.14 of unpaid bills from the nonprofit’s annual fireworks show and festival.
“Although we consider the event to be a great success to the public, our expenses superseded our revenue,” committee Chairman Julio Valadez said during the meeting. “Having exhausted all our other resources, it has become necessary that we request your support.”
Valadez said the group spent an additional $10,000 this year to “continue the tradition” of being the largest fireworks display in the Valley, but sponsorships and donations were not as expected. Large companies didn’t donate and there was a disappointing drop in ticket sales for an annual car raffle – the event’s biggest fundraiser.
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The city’s annual Fourth of July fireworks show this year was reduced from three nights to one because of drought conditions and increasing demands those condtions put on firefighters.
Expenses for the celebration were more than $70,000, Valadez said, but recouping costs is difficult because the event is free. The unpaid invoices are for generators, lighting, radio advertising, a sound system and private security.
The Livingston Police Department provides free services during the event, but Valadez said an outside security company was hired for overnight patrol and to guard the alcohol station – costing about $800.
Council members expressed a desire to help the group pay off its debt, but the cash-strapped city faces a $150,000 deficit in its budget. “As you know, we do have a tight budget,” said Mayor Pro Tem Gurpal Samra. “Perhaps if the council knows people, they can still get late donations.”
Mayor Rodrigo Espinoza blamed the financial difficulties on the Fourth of July committee not being awarded a booth to sell fireworks this year. Nonprofits use the sale of fireworks to raise money, but the City Council amended the city’s fireworks ordinance to nix the old method of putting all nonprofits on a rotation schedule.
Instead, the council allowed itself to pick two “discretionary” booths and place the rest in a lottery. The Livingston Fourth of July Committee was not selected.
“I was trying to support you guys for the fireworks booth. The council didn’t approve it,” the mayor said. “I can say ‘I told you so,’ but it’s already past. I think with that you guys would have come out even, or probably in the positive at least.”
The council ultimately decided to place an item on a future agenda to discuss ways to help the group.
In other business, the City Council unanimously voted to submit a measure to voters in the November election asking if the mayor’s term should be extended from two years to four years. It also simplified the language on the measure.
Councilman Jim Soria was absent during Tuesday’s meeting.
City officials also announced the state has approved the transfer of a grant awarded to remodel the now-demolished Court Theater to fund improvements to Joseph Gallo Park, such as renovating the restrooms and picnic areas.
“What was going to be done at the theater will now be done at the park,” said City Engineer Mario Gouveia.
The $477,000 grant requires a 42 percent match by the city, which officials are trying to get waived.