Budget crunch snuffs out fuse for Tewksbury July 4 fireworks

The Friends of the Tewksbury Patriotic Activities Committee was formed in 2006 to promote and organize community funding and participation for patriotic events such as the Memorial Day parade, Veterans Day service, and Independence Day celebrations.

Budget crunch snuffs out fuse for Tewksbury July 4 fireworks

Postby dougsears on Sat Mar 10, 2012 3:48 pm

Budget crunch snuffs out fuse for Tewksbury July 4 fireworks

By Joyce Tsai, jtsai@lowellsun.com
Updated: 03/10/2012 06:38:20 AM EST


TEWKSBURY -- From year to year, fundraising for the town's Fourth of July celebration has been a touch-and-go enterprise.

Nearly every year, the drive for donations has spurred impassioned appeals by the nonprofit Friends of the Tewksbury Patriotic Activities Committee. And the group has sent out distress signals that a lack of donations could mean the death knell to the fireworks celebration.

This year the situation is bleaker than ever. Friends of the Tewksbury PAC board voted Thursday night to cancel the July 4 fireworks all together due to how little in donations have come through, said Jerry Selissen, the group's president.

"We're $17,000 down from where we need to be," Selissen said. "So we just wanted to let people know there's no way we can do this. And let people know they have to make other plans for the Fourth of July."

The group fundraises for three events for the town -- the Memorial Day parade, the Fourth of July celebration and Veterans Day observances -- which cost a total of $30,000 annually, Selissen said. The July Fourth festivities cost about $17,000. About $12,000 to $13,000 is for the fireworks display, and about $3,000 goes to police, fire and Department of Public Works details, and $1,000 pays for associated activities, such as its pie-eating contest, doll-carriage decorating contest, and other games.

In the past, the group has been able to raise $12,000 in corporate donations for July Fourth, Selissen said. But this year, it's only been able to drum up $1,000 from two corporate sponsors, which he declined to name. Each gave $500 this year, when last year, they each gave $2,000. And five to six of its other corporate sponsors, which have been good for donations in years past, haven't responded to requests this year.

"It's kind of a sign of the times, actually," Selissen said.

"There's all kinds of groups asking for money these days," he said. "But most of these corporations only budget so much money for donations each year. And it's my sense they are trying to spread the wealth."

The Friends of the Tewksbury PAC has also cut back its annual fundraisers, from four to two this year, he said, explaining "a lot of the committee's members are getting burned out." This year's Big Bang Bash event raised a little under $2,000, which was down from previous years. And its volunteers are dwindling.

"People have other priorities, and the community has not gotten behind us," he said. "The support isn't there."

Selectman Douglas Sears said many nonprofits have been facing tough economic pressures these days, including the Tewksbury Community Pantry.

"In this economy, I think if you have an extra $100 to contribute, you'd rather put it someplace where you are feeding a family," he said. "Today, people need steak more than sizzle."

Sears also said it was his understanding that the Friends might have "sufficient surplus to do all three events this calendar year." "But you should verify that with Jerry Selissen," he said.

"And if the group does indeed have a surplus, assertions to the contrary may be just a fundraising ploy," he said.

Selissen said that's not the case.

"I have no idea where (Sears) is getting this information, but he's wrong," Selissen said.

Currently, the group has $23,000 in its account, but much of it, some $14,000 to $15,000 is committed to the Memorial Day parade, which the group is looking at expanding with the addition of other marching bands or groups, if it cannot fund the July Fourth fireworks display, he said. Another $2,000 is needed for the police, fire and DPW details for the parade, which leaves the group only about $8,000, for the rest of the year.

Selectman Anne Marie Stronach, who attended Thursday's meeting, said that fundraising has been especially difficult for the group this year. And after paying for the parade, the group would only have about $8,000 left, which would not be enough for the town's July Fourth fireworks display -- or for the seed money needed into the next year.

"The Fourth of July event would drain all of their resources," she said.

For his part, Selissen said he was frustrated by Sears' comments and the Board of Selectmen's lack of support for his group. Recently, with the town's improved financial situation, Selissen put in a budget request to the town, asking for help to pay for police, fire and DPW details for July Fourth, due to his group's fundraising difficulties, but Town Manager Richard Montuori rejected it.

"We've gotten zero support from the Board of Selectmen," Selissen said. "About four or five years ago, the town funded all three events to the tune of about $35,000, and now we get nothing from the town."

But Sears said that "the town can't support with public funds what is a private organization, without committing the town to supporting everyone else's worthy charity or organization."

Stronach agreed, saying it was "a matter of equity" and the town still is facing many fiscal challenges.

"I support their efforts, and I feel that its members are hardworking and dedicated, but I could say that about a lot of groups in town," she said.

When asked how much of a loss it would be to the town to give up its July Fourth fireworks display this year, Stronach said it would be "disappointing."

"But it's community-supported, so I think that's up the community to decide."

Follow Joyce Tsai at twitter.com/JoyceTsaiSun.

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Re: Budget crunch snuffs out fuse for Tewksbury July 4 firew

Postby BigBoss on Tue Mar 13, 2012 11:43 am

Well at least there will still be some great fireworks in Wilmington, as always.
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Re: Budget crunch snuffs out fuse for Tewksbury July 4 firew

Postby its5pmsomewherenow on Tue Mar 13, 2012 3:49 pm

The way this article is written, it kinda sounds like a group of volunteers (private charity organzation) stepped in several years ago to raise funds for something the town used to cover in the "budget," -- a set of community events, that should probably be covered "by the community." Now, the way the town leadership sees it, they can't pick and choose which community organizations to support, because that wouldn't be fair.

I don't think that's quite fair to any of the volunteers in town who have raised "extra" money for community good, that used to be covered in a department budget. Why not just say "in this economy, the town funds just can't be appropriated to ANY extras." Period. Regardless of who stepped in to pick up some slack. Several organtizations have probably save the community even more grief by "covering" for budget cutbacks -- our town may have been better off if we could have seen then, what we see now -- NO MONEY for extras.
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Re: Budget crunch snuffs out fuse for Tewksbury July 4 firew

Postby ELLE on Wed Mar 14, 2012 6:39 am

Unless the "other" fund raising activities are for items that were once part of the general budget, comparing them to what the patriotic committee is doing is just outrageous. I understand that there is no extra money, just don't appreciate the selectmen response.
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Re: Budget crunch snuffs out fuse for Tewksbury July 4 firew

Postby moretpani on Wed Mar 14, 2012 7:26 am

We would have had more money for stuff like this had we rejected the stupid sewer project.
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Re: Budget crunch snuffs out fuse for Tewksbury July 4 firew

Postby dougsears on Wed Mar 14, 2012 9:18 am

Elle:

It was 6 years ago that the Selectmen voted to discontinue funding the fireworks with taxpayer dollars.

What has changed?

Doug
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Re: Budget crunch snuffs out fuse for Tewksbury July 4 firew

Postby tigerchief on Wed Mar 14, 2012 12:17 pm

This is an area where I always felt the DeMoulas family and Market Basket dropped the ball on their community responsibility!!! Despite calling Tewksbury its corporate headquarters, this 3 BILLION DOLLAR company seldom steps to the plate with any significant contribution to the town.............
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Re: Budget crunch snuffs out fuse for Tewksbury July 4 firew

Postby Katdell on Fri Mar 16, 2012 10:31 am

From what I gather (and I'm sure I'll be corrected if I'm wrong) in the past when budget cuts cancelled the community activities, this group was formed. It is not a
'private' organization, it's a non-profit - thus not making a profit. Most towns have community events for these milestone days. Why is it Tewksbury no longer appears to want to support community events unless they are sports related? I can understand the comment about 'not picking and choosing' private organizations to fund. But why not just put the darn items back on the budget that were removed? Then, let the PAC give the money to the town for the events it raises funds for to supplement the differences? We're all busy - time and the economy don't help. But the volunteers on this committee to it for the community and for those of us that are so rush to rush every day have these FEW celebratory events to sit back with family and enjoy the community. Shame on the town and town manager for dividing the community even further. Hope the actual PRICE of not putting in these simple things back into the budget to keep our community growing is well worth it. BTW - this should NOT be connected to any sewer issues as the two are totally un-related. And shame on Market it up Basket/Demoulus too! What HAVE they done for the community?
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Re: Budget crunch snuffs out fuse for Tewksbury July 4 firew

Postby dougsears on Fri Mar 16, 2012 3:59 pm

It serves no purpose to point fingers and say "shame on" so and so.

FOTPAC got formed for a purpose. It has difficulty now fulfilling the purpose.

Hopefully, it can keep the Memorial Day Parade going and the Veterans Day event.

It might be helpful for the education of the community of supporters and potential supporters for the FOTPAC to make public an itemization of the costs for such events.

For example, what does it cost of have The Shriners attend the Memorial Day parade? What does it cost to have each other charity to attend?

How much does it cost (by department) for police, fire and dpw overtime? What are the "administrative costs" ?

How can we justify paying overtime for public safety personnel for such events when the money could go to keeping one or more of their jobs?

To those who want our taxes to pay for these events, I would rather see the South Fire open more days than spend public money on explosions in the night sky.
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