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Deltona will help Latino event — Spirited debate over waiving festival fees
Anthony Bellizio chosen as replacement for Lowry
By Al Everson
posted Jul 22, 2014 - 10:56:24am
An infusion of tax dollars ensures a long-running event honoring Hispanic culture will go forward in Deltona, but the decision to support the Latin Arts and Music Festival followed a spirited debate over helping one group while denying another.
"For 19 years, this huge festival has been in place in our community, and it attracts people not just from our community, but from the surrounding area," Commissioner Zenaida Denizac said.
The Deltona City Commission July 7 agreed to write off part of the fees for the 19th annual Latin Arts and Music Festival. The Volusia County Hispanic Association had asked for a full waiver.
"It does not follow our policy," Commissioner Nancy Schleicher said. "I will be voting against this."
The city proposed to charge the Hispanic Association almost $10,000 to stage the Latin Festival, set for Sunday, Sept. 21, at Dewey Boster Park. The Volusia County Hispanic Association uses the event as a fundraiser to supply backpacks to needy children.
Scheicher added the City Commission had rejected a fee waiver for the Little League earlier this year, because that group failed to apply in advance for its fee waiver to be included in Deltona's budget.
"Here we go again with another special event that is not in the budget," Vice Mayor Heidi Herzberg said. "We have got to start budgeting events."
Herzberg agreed to go along with the Hispanic Association's request, and she said Deltona’s fee-waiver policy is "convoluted."
"I am not looking at this as a cultural problem, but as a policy problem," Schleicher said.
Her colleague, Commissioner Chris Nabicht, took a hard-line stance.
"The core issue is, it's not in the budget," he said. "We're responsible for the taxpayers' dollars. ... We need to follow the policy."
Nabicht moved to deny the request, and Schleicher quickly seconded his motion.
Schleicher suggested the Volusia County Hispanic Association seek funding from the Volusia County Council.
Florida Rep. David Santiago, R-Deltona, who, along with his wife, Emma, has worked as an event volunteer for several years, said the group had been unsuccessful in securing support from the the county because of budgetary austerity.
"You've seen the event. This is not a profit event," Santiago said, as he urged the commission to support the festival. "We've had very little to no trouble with law enforcement."
Santiago pointed out the Latin Festival is a free event for the public, and has drawn as many 8,000 or 9,000 people.
Santiago's daughter, Kristina, also joined in calling upon the elected body to waive the fees for the Latin Festival.
"It's not about politics; it's about bringing the community together," she said.
Denizac spoke again in favor of waiving fees for the festival, noting Santiago had secured $1 million in state funding for Deltona's water and sewer projects. The state grants, she argued, more than offset any money the city treasury would lose by writing off the festival expenses.
"This is pennies," Denizac said, referring to the city's charges for police, fire and emergency-medical stand-by, as well as for use of the park.
"My job is to follow procedures," Schleicher said. "If we don't like the policy, let's throw the policy out."
Another set of numbers on the city's balance sheet quickly entered the debate.
"We have given away money in liens and code-enforcement fines," Herzberg said, alluding to the City Commission's frequent decisions to reduce penalties for violating regulations on property maintenance and appearance. "I cannot support not sponsoring this event this time."
On a 3-2 vote, the City Commission turned down waiving the fees for the Latin Festival, but the matter did not end there.
Mayor John Masiarczyk, who had joined with Nabicht and Schleicher in killing the original proposal, subsequently called for appropriating $5,000 for the Latin Festival this year, with the understanding that the City of Deltona will create a new multi-cultural celebration in 2015 "to recognize the diversity in our community."
"We will put on a festival," Masiarczyk pledged, suggesting the name "The All Nations Festival."
Santiago endorsed the idea.
"I think your suggestion is a good one," he told Masiarczyk and the commission.
"Where is the money going to come from?" Nabicht asked.
"The general fund," Masiarczyk replied.
That answer did not please Nabicht, who said Deltona needs to spend more for capital items, such as sidewalks.
The City Commission voted 3-2 for Masiarczyk's motion to waive half the fees. Denizac and Herzberg voted with the mayor, leaving Nabicht and Schleicher on the losing side.
The end result is the Volusia County Hispanic Association will have to pay almost $5,000 as its share to stage the Latin Festival. Asked later about the split in funding, Santiago said he was satisfied with the City Commission's action.
"I think it was reasonable," he told The Beacon.
The Deltona City Commission had only five of its seven members in attendance. Commissioner Webster Barnaby was absent, and the replacement for Commissioner Fred Lowry did not take his place until just before the July 7 meeting adjourned.
The City Commission chose Anthony Bellizio as the temporary replacement for Lowry, who had to resign last month because he and his wife and sold their home and moved out of District 5.
Bellizio was the commission's top choice among six applicants. He is not a candidate for the District 5 post in the upcoming election.
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