SHEDG deficit shrinks over past two years

Sean C. Morgan

The Sweet Home Economic Development Group finished 2013 with a $174,000 deficit and 2014 with a loss of $49,000.

The Oregon Jamboree had a net income from fund-raising events of $263,000 in 2013 and the 2014 Oregon Jamboree, SHEDG’s largest fund-raising event, had an operating profit of $330,000. Those totals do not include labor costs.

Until 2013, SHEDG calculated the Oregon Jamboree’s profitability based on revenue and costs that included employee costs, reporting a profit or loss annually. Those costs were not counted among Jamboree expenses beginning with the 2013 event.

SHEDG pulled out all of its payroll from the Jamboree fund-raising event and it is now accounted as part of SHEDG’s overall budget said SHEDG President John Wittwer.

It is difficult to determine what percentage of employee time is actually spent working on the Jamboree, complicating determination of labor costs for the Jamboree, he said.

SHEDG paid five employees approximately $227,000 in 2013.

“Staff performs services for the Jamboree all year long,” Wittwer said, and those same staff members perform non-Jamboree services for SHEDG throughout the year. “Even Erin (Regrutto, festival director), probably a fourth of her time is spent on SHEDG (and not the Jamboree.)”

A substantial portion of SHEDG’s labor costs are related to the Jamboree, Wittwer said, but how much, he doesn’t know.

SHEDG’s form 990 shows large swings from previous years, based on how the organization is counting those labor expenses, Wittwer said.

SHEDG, which owns and operates the Oregon Jamboree as a fund-raising mechanism for economic development projects, recently filed its 2013 Form 990 with the IRS and released it to The New Era. The 2014 Form 990 won’t be prepared until next year, but Regrutto reported the projected figures for 2014.

At the bottom line for the entire organization, its deficit shrank by $49,000 in 2013 from $223,000 in 2012 and by another $125,000 in 2014.

In 2013, SHEDG expenses included several projects. Among them, SHEDG spent $11,751 on the Commercial Exterior Improvement Program. The program reimburses business and property owners for improving their storefronts, painting, replacing signs and other improvements.

SHEDG provided $8,568 to the Sweet Home Community Foundation from an artists reception concert and auction during the Jamboree. The Community Foundation distributes grants to charitable projects in the Sweet Home community. Grant recipients have included the Public Library stained glass window project, East Linn Museum, School District 55, the Gleaners programs, Sweet Home Emergency Ministries and many more.

SHEDG distributed $9,138 to the Sweet Home Beautification Committee, which operates the Arts and Crafts Festival during the Jamboree in August. Those funds pass through the SHEDG organization to pay for the median strip and other projects, mainly along Sweet Home’s roadsides.

Wittwer expected things to get better this year, despite budgeting for an overall loss in 2014, he said. “We had budgeted very aggressively on sales, and we fell short of that somewhat.”

The SHEDG Board anticipated raising additional funds through alternate events, and the staff stepped up with what SHEDG is calling “Sweet Events,” such as the annual Mystery Concert, headlined by Jo Dee Messina this year, Wittwer said. The board and staff agreed to come up with half of the budgeted $40,000 shortfall. The staff raised its portion. The board members held one event and didn’t get there.

Despite the losses facing SHEDG in the past three years, Wittwer said, “I think we’re heading in the right direction. I’m confident that the Jamboree is not the huge drain this year it was in the prior years.”

He noted that Jamboree ticket sales for 2015 are running ahead of 2014. The board continues to pursue other options, and while discussions are not active regarding a proposed indie music festival, the idea isn’t finished.

The way things are going, SHEDG resources eventually will run out, but not at the pace they had been, Wittwer said.

“The picture is getting brighter,” he said, noting that a good bellwether is that there is a reason other, similar festivals to the Jamboree that have been springing up.

The Jamboree also has “expert management, a great product and wonderful volunteers,” Wittwer said, while maintaining a low overhead and the staff is doing a “tremendous job.”

He noted that the festival benefits the community in other ways besides direct profits to the Jamboree. It brings thousands of visitors to town, who spend money on food and other supplies, fuel, parking.

“There’s every reason to believe the Jamboree should not be a financial drain on SHEDG,” he said. It may not return to its prior glory with multiple hundreds of thousands of dollars in profits, but it should at least break even or near even.