Puyallup scrambles for Daffodil Festival float funding solution

Government: Change in state law doesn’t allow lodging tax dollars to be used for floats

of the HeraldFebruary 26, 2014 

The traditional Daffodil Festival Grand Floral parade will roll through downtown Puyallup on April 5, but the fate of the community float is up in the air.

For the past five years, the Puyallup Main Street Association has taken on the responsibility of designing and building the community float. Lodging tax dollars, about $5,000 each year, have been used to support both the Daffodil Festival and Santa parade floats.

But now that well is dry.

The Puyallup City Council voted to remove the allocation from the budget in order to comply with a new state law that dictates lodging tax dollars must be used for tourism-specific activities that bring in people from 50 miles away or from out of state.

City Attorney Kevin Yamamoto said the lodging tax dollars could still be used to support festivals and parades.

“The distinction is the Daffodil Parade has all sorts of components in it,” Yamamoto said. “In essence, funding each of those single components is not how the law is designed. It’s designed to fund the whole event, not a single component.”

Michele McGill, executive director of the Puyallup Main Street Association, said the organization is looking to find another group because the funding has gone away.

In order for a high school to provide a princess, the community from which the high school resides must submit a float in the parade during the previous year, according to festival rules.

If Puyallup can’t come up with a solution soon, the three comprehensive high schools in the Puyallup School District will not be allowed to participate in the 2014-15 Daffodil Festival season.

Steve James, executive director of the Daffodil Festival, said most participating high schools and their corresponding districts take on the responsibility of raising funds for and designing and building a float.

“It’s entirely supposed to be a school district issue,” James said. “Years ago, it was owned by the (Puyallup) school district. There are some school districts that do it well and do fundraisers to pull it off.”

James said the Franklin Pierce School District will host its annual powder puff football game on Friday as a fundraiser to help its Daffodil Festival float.

In Orting, the community rallies around the Orting Chocolate Stroll, an annual fundraiser that occurred Feb. 8.

The Sumner Downtown Association is the organizing body for the Sumner/Bonney Lake float. Laurie Miller, executive director of the association, said the organization has raised nearly $20,000 in the past to invest in storing, designing and decorating the float. A portion comes from the Business and Occupation tax incentive program, and the balance comes from fundraisers such as the annual Sweetheart Wine Walk, Miller said.

“Due to a major budget shortfall this year, we have to cut back our funds for the float and are seeking donated goods to help support our design,” Miller said.

She said Sumner and Bonney Lake credit Terry Flippin, co-owner of Artistic Solutions, for coming up with the float design each year. The Sumner/Bonney Lake float has received the Grand Floral Award for many years.

Meanwhile, Puyallup City Council member Julie Door is trying to rally support for a float. Door is the appointed liaison between the council and the Main Street association.

“It’d be nice to find a long-term solution to the problem,” Door said. “No one wants to take ownership of this.”

Door said it would be ideal to bring in the school district, the Main Street association and other community players to find a resolution.

She said she’s had conversations with Puyallup School District Superintendent Tim Yeomans, who has said the district is willing to collaborate if community partners come forward.

James said the City of Puyallup shouldn’t have to carry the load.

“The fault shouldn’t fall on them,” James said. “Ultimately, it should come back to the school district.”

Puyallup City Manager Bill McDonald equates the situation to a baton being passed around from party to party. First it was the school district, then the Puyallup-Sumner Chamber of Commerce and then the Main Street association.

“It ends up on the city doorstep because we have an office and a phone number,” McDonald said. “Maybe it’s time to have a different group providing oversight. It needs to depend on volunteers and have a broader base. It will get done. I’m sure it will.

“This is a community thing,” he added. “So, the community needs to be involved.”

Reporter Andrew Fickes can be reached at 253-552-7001 or by email at andrew.fickes@puyallupherald.com. Follow him on Twitter, @herald_andrew.

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