Film commission seeks $150,000 budget
The film commission is running out of money and may shut down.
By DEBORA SHAULIS
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- The director of the Western Reserve Film Commission is asking Mahoning County commissioners for a $150,000 budget this year for marketing, trade show attendance and personnel, including his own salary.
Commissioners say they won't act upon Richard Ouzounian's request before they resolve issues with the county's former and current tourism bureaus.The film commission gets its funding from Mahoning County Convention & amp; Visitors Bureau, which receives one-third of a 3 percent lodging tax on hotels and motels. The remaining bed tax money is used to fund operations at Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport.
The Mahoning County CVB was created after a previous board of county commissioners stopped funding the Youngstown/Mahoning County CVB in 2003. The new CVB has an interim board that consists of county Commissioners Anthony Traficanti, David Ludt and John McNally IV and the manager of Red Roof Inn in Boardman, Jeff Maurer.
A settlement has not been reached concerning bed tax dollars that the old CVB kept. McNally believes commissioners will resolve the issue soon, as early as next week. "It's time to figure out another track," he said.
That may include the creation of a permanent CVB board that excludes the commissioners, Traficanti said.
McNally wants Ouzounian's office to continue to receive CVB funds. "I'm not going to commit general fund money to the film commission," he said.
McNally is "relatively happy" with Ouzounian's efforts to bring filmmakers here, he said.
Five independent movies were filmed locally last year. The economic impact of filmmaking on the local economy was $3 million last year, according to Ouzounian.
"For the amount of money we gave him to do his work, I'm happy with that," McNally said.
"He's done a great job for Mahoning County," Ludt said. Ouzounian was given the $65,000 to prove what he could do, "and he did," Ludt said.
"I'm pleased with the results we've had in the short time we've had a film commission in place," Traficanti said. The film productions led to increased occupancy in local hotels and motels, and that's the CVB's mission, he said.
Before CVB funds were allocated to the film commission, Ouzounian said he and his wife funded it themselves for two years, spending about $20,000 on travel, telephone bills, office rent, location photography and more.
Ouzounian won't fund the commission himself anymore; it should be a community effort, he said.
The film commission has only about $1,000 remaining in its account, and Ouzounian said he may have to shut the office down at month's end if his budget isn't approved beforehand.
Other funding sources
Ouzounian also is talking with Trumbull County commissioners about supporting the film commission and looking to private foundations for money, he said.
The film commission's budget should be $300,000 to have the personnel and marketing money that's needed to promote the area, Ouzounian said.
The 2005 budget that commissioners received from Ouzounian listed his annual salary at $40,000, McNally said. Ouzounian said he also spent money on computers and office equipment in anticipation of hiring staff this year.
Ouzounian wants his salary to be comparable to other film commissioners, who average from $60,000 to $80,000 annually, he said. Those figures are "great for comparison purposes," McNally said, but the CVB board will decide what his salary should be.
"We're debating everything in the budget at this point," Ouzounian said.