By Pat Sherman of the La Jolla Light
Following a cash flow shortage that hampered some of La Jolla Village Merchants Association’s (LJVMA) plans for 2013, its current board trustees say they aren’t playing games when it comes to generating income. They are, however, hoping people will want to play the “La Jolla-opoly” board game it plans to sell, and participate in the association’s first fund-raising golf tournament at Torrey Pines Golf Course.
The LJVMA receives about $12,000 per month from a tax assessment on Village merchants that it uses to create business-boosting events and a pleasant shopping aesthetic within La Jolla’s business improvement district (BID). It also relies on grant money and discretionary income generated from events, advertising and promotions to pay for many of its objectives.
The board game, one of the income-generating items in a fiscal year 2014-2015 budget approved by trustees during the LJVMA’s Feb. 12 meeting at Empress Hotel, is estimated to produce $22,500 in discretionary income for the association.
A La Jolla version of the classic Monopoly game was produced in 1994.
That game plan proved successful for Ocean Beach Mainstreet, a group similar to the LJVMA that manages Ocean Beach’s BID fees. Denny Knox, executive director of Ocean Beach Mainstreet, said her organization ordered two batches of 1,000 games last fall, produced by the company, Late for the Sky. The first 1,000 games sold out within four days, she said. It cost between $15 and $22 apiece to produce, and sells for $40 each.
LJVMA Executive Director Sheila Fortune said La Jolla’s game would be sold online and in the group’s La Jolla Information Center at 1162 Prospect St.
Hoping to replace some of the income-generating events that the LJVMA lost organizational control of in recent years, the board also approved holding its first fundraising golf tourney, tentatively scheduled for Friday, May 16. Fortune estimated the first event would cost around $42,000 to produce, and raise about $50,000.
“That’s conservative numbers,” Fortune said of the event, later adding that most tourneys do not make money until they are branded and have a following.
Tickets will cost $250 each; the tourney would accommodate 144 players. Fortune said she would rely on board members to help procure sponsorship and players for the event.
Budget discussions The LJVMA’s budget for July 1, 2014 to June 30, 2015 (to be forwarded to the San Diego City Council for approval) includes income of $535,350 and expenses of $531,210 (for a net gain of $4,140).
A total of $37,250 is budgeted for four seasonal Haute La Jolla Nights music and shopping events (which were scaled back from six events last year due to lagging sponsor participation). Of that amount, $15,000 is earmarked for musicians’ fees and $10,000 is slated for a December Haute Night that would include a Festival of Trees, where people would compete to decorate holiday trees, menorahs and gingerbread houses, Fortune said.
It was noted the LJVMA’s transportation service from the Farmers Open Golf Tournament to the Village lost about $300.
LJVMA trustee Claudette Berwin stressed the need to turn non-income generating events that the LJVMA partners with, such as the La Jolla Art & Wine Festival and Concours d’Elegance auto show, into events that generate income for the association.
“I’m not talking about a lot of money, but rather than negative dollars or zero profit, it would be nice to start getting something, somehow,” Berwin said.
Trustees also approved applying for a Small Business Enhancement Program (SBEP) grant from the city, which is typically fixed at around $24,000, and an Economic Development Tourism Support (EDTS) grant to increase tourism and economic development in La Jolla.
Though the LJVMA qualifies for around $40,000 in EDTS funding, it will have to obtain a perfect review score to receive the entire amount, Fortune said.
“These grants are going to be very, very competitive this year and they’ve told us you’ve got to do a great job to get this money,” she said.
Employee expenses Total personnel costs in the budget are estimated at $152,000 and include salaries for LJVMA’s full-time executive director ($88,0000 per year) and another full-time and three part-time Information Center staff that make $13.77 an hour. About $74,000 of that amount will come from the BID fund, $50,000 from discretionary funding and $29,000 from grants.
The LJVMA will need to find a way to cover all or part of health-care costs for Fortune and full-time Information Center employee, Kaylie Boden.
Trustee Nancy Warwick expressed concern with reimbursing employees for the full cost of health insurance.
“I do get some negative feedback when I walk around that too much is going into salaries,” she said.
However, trustee James Niebling added, “I believe that if they’re truly valued employees, then health care is what it is. If we need to incorporate it into the budget, so be it.”
San Diego’s BID Council advocate, Elizabeth Studebaker, said the BID Council (which oversees LJVMA and other San Diego’s BID groups) once managed a health-care program for the BID associations and small businesses within the BIDs, though it was unsuccessful and discontinued.
Studebaker noted that the city gives the LJVMA $24,000 per year in SBEP grant money from its general fund to help cover BID groups’ staffing needs.
“It’s not a lot of money, but the intention is that it offsets some of your other costs so that you can support your professional staff with health insurance,” she said.
After some budget maneuvering, which included reducing “miscellaneous office supplies” from $4,000 per year to $2,000 per year, the LJVMA’s part-time, contract bookkeeper, Maryam Kheradbakhs, agreed to stay on, working 15 hours per week at $35 an hour — though her salary is partly contingent upon discretionary income generation.
Pounding the pavement LJVMA trustees are walking the streets to inventory businesses not listed on a city spreadsheet as having obtained a business tax certificate (formerly business license), and thus not paying
BID fees to support the LJVMA. Those businesses will be forwarded to the City Treasurer’s office, which will send business owners a notice asking them to apply for a certificate and pay BID fees
“We’ve got over 1,200 businesses that are on our city roster paying taxes, but I bet you we’ve got at least 500 more that are not,” Fortune said. “That will just be adding gravy on what (income is) going to come in.”
LJVMA Board President Claude-Anthony Marengo said he would beat the drum to assure information is collected and all businesses are paying BID fees “if it takes my whole term.”
Mapping La Jolla: Though the LJVMA produced 100,000 foldout maps last year to hand out at the Information Center and other spots across the county, Fortune said the maps were not well received and that people stopping by the Information Center are largely requesting a one-page, photo-copied map.
“People don’t want our beautiful map,” she said. “They don’t want to carry it around; they don’t want to open it up.”
The LJVMA is looking at alternative map ideas, including one that would incorporate an image of the Village licensed from Google Earth, and an app that would allow people to drop by the Information Center and print out custom walking routes to Village destinations.