Monday, July 6, 2015 by Audrey McGlinchy

Parks Department collects more from special events ticket sales

The city of Austin collected more than double the previous year’s amount of money from Austin City Limits Music Festival ticket sales last year, following a new fee schedule adopted by City Council starting in the 2013-2014 budget year.

In 2013, the city pocketed roughly $438,000 from ACL festival ticket sales. That revenue more than doubled in 2014, when the city collected roughly $1.3 million. (The increase can partly be attributed to nearly 60,000 more tickets being sold in 2014 than the year before.) The new fee schedule applies to all tickets sold for special events on city parks, and the money goes directly into the park maintenance fund, a subset of the city’s General Fund.

“It was really just a fee that was brought forward to be more reflective of maintenance funds coming back through that ticket fee to the department for park maintenance,” said Jason Maurer, sales and events manager for the Parks and Recreation Department. “The park maintenance fund gets a better benefit from that higher-priced ticket.”

In earlier years, the city collected a flat rate of $1 per ticket each day the ticket was used (so, a three-day pass would earn the city $3). But on Sept. 9, 2013, Council adopted a new fee schedule into the city budget. The schedule changed the revenue collected from private ticketed events taking place on parkland to a tiered system in which the amount of money the city makes depends on the price of the ticket.

For tickets costing between $1 and $50, the city collects $1 per day; for tickets priced from $51 to $100, the city collects $2 per day; and for tickets sold for more than $101, the city collects $3 for each day that ticket is used.

“The benefit is greater as entities charge more money,” Maurer told the Austin Monitor.

According to Maurer, because the money goes directly into the park maintenance fund, it is funneled back into the city’s parks – filling, he said, often-overlooked coffers.

“Park maintenance funding is always lacking – it always has been,” Maurer said. “Irrespective of events, the battle you hear at Council is, ‘Libraries needs more money, Parks needs more money, Fire and EMS need more money,’ so you can guess who always wins.”

Mayor Pro Tem Kathie Tovo said seeing the impact of the fee change confirms that the decision made in 2013 was the right one.

“I was really pleased to see that that fee change has had a financial impact, and that the events are helping maintain the land that they’re taking place on,” Tovo told the Monitor.

While Tovo said the city’s soon-to-be-realized Parkland Events Task Force will look at whether all the revenue associated with special events should be funneled directly back into park funds, she said she might take it upon herself to see that this is done.

“I may sponsor something before they start their work,” she told the Monitor.

This story was completed with the help of research by Connor McGee

Queens of the Stone Age at Austin City Limits Music Festival 2007” by Bruce Turner. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

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Key Players & Topics In This Article

Austin City Council: The Austin City Council is the body with legislative purview over the City of Austin. It offers policy direction, while the office of the City Manager implements administrative actions based on those policies. Until 2012, the body contained seven members, including the city's Mayor, all elected at-large. In 2012, City of Austin residents voted to change that system and now 10 members of the Council are elected based on geographic districts. The Mayor continues to be elected at-large.

Austin City Limits festival: The annual music festival held in Zilker Park over two weekends in October.

City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department: The city department responsible for the city's park system, rec centers, and associated infrastructure.

Zilker Park: Austin's largest downtown park, Zilker Park is comprised of 350 acres donated by Andrew Jackson Zilker in 1917. It contains the Zilker Botanical Gardens, Umlauf Sculpture Garden and adjoins Barton Springs Pool.

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