To the Editor:
I misspoke during our August 11th city council meeting and wish to make a public correction. Per a recent article in the Oak Ridger, I stated that “We pay the Chamber of Commerce $275,000 per year, compared to Farragut who pays $7,000 per year to be a member of their chamber.”
While in the past, the City of Oak Ridge funded the Oak Ridge Chamber of Commerce up to $286,000 annually, our current allocation is $175,000. Furthermore, Farragut has increased their contribution to their chamber from $7,000 to $15,000 according to their most recently published budget, found here.
As Mr. Hardy has pointed out, none of the city’s contribution pays for their $887,471 in salaries (including fringe benefits or awards as outlined in their 2011 statement of functional expenses).
I should also clarify that our lease with the chamber (found on pdf pages 135-147 of the July 14, 2014 agenda packet found here) for the city-owned land upon which they reside originated in 1968 and was revised in 1991 to permit the chamber to pay $100 per year for up to 15 years for the use of the centrally-located lot.
Subsequently, that lease was renewed and revised in 2003 through 2038 (signed for by then-mayor David Bradshaw and current/past chamber president, Parker Hardy) for an amount of about $515 with an annual increase correlating to the CPI. Currently, their lease payments to the taxpayers hovers around $700 per year. According to their 2011 financial statements, the building is valued at about $755,000. As a nonprofit, the chamber pays no property taxes on this building.
I retain my position that their lease amount falls significantly short of Fair Market Value and I invite anyone with the industry expertise to provide council with comps that demonstrate the true value of that land so that we may pursue a more equitable annual payment on behalf of the taxpayers. In conjunction with a reduction of our annual payments to the chamber, an increase in their lease payments to the city could offset the costs affiliated with the potential acquisition of Clark Center Park and thus enable the city to retain it as a true public asset.
I apologize for my error and for the confusion I may have created.