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Some cities may scrap Rose Parade floats amid budget crises

West Covina won't have a float this year, and Glendale — the second-longest-running entrant — may not either. Burbank cut its float contribution 10%, and Alhambra left funding up to the Chamber of Commerce.

June 22, 2011|By Melanie Hicken and Kate Mather, Los Angeles Times
  • Glendale's peacock float for the 1923 Rose Parade was displayed for two weeks at Grauman's Chinese Theatre. The city may lose its status as the second-longest-running entrant if it goes through with a major funding cut this year.
Glendale's peacock float for the 1923 Rose Parade was displayed for… (Special Collections / Glendale…)

Budget problems have officials in some cities debating whether they can still afford to finance floats in the Rose Parade.

West Covina says it won't have a float because it cannot raise enough money.

Glendale could follow suit if the City Council votes to cease its $130,000 commitment to build the annual float — ending the city's status as the second-longest-running entrant. The potential funding cut comes amid an $18-million budget gap at City Hall.

Photos: Early years of the Rose Parade

"It's a great thing, and the community does take pride in it," Mayor Laura Friedman said of the city's floats at a recent budget meeting. "But at this time, we are talking about cutting programs for children in the parks. I think it's a luxury."

Without the city subsidy, there's little chance that funding will be cobbled together in time for the 2012 float.

Typically, the Glendale Rose Float Assn. is asked to raise $50,000 to pay back to the city, reducing the municipal subsidy to $80,000. This year, officials would also want the association to pay $30,000 for city staff time that would be spent overseeing the float project.

But the organization has been waning in recent years. After two fundraisers this year, just $500 has been raised, said the group's president, Garry Ackerman.

"What they're asking, we can't begin to do," he said.

A design for this year's float is already in the works, but the city has yet to sign the $100,000 construction contract at a time when other cities are well underway.

"The contract has to be signed soon because they have to begin building it now," said Glendale Councilman Dave Weaver, a longtime float advocate and chairman of last year's decorating committee.

"After 98 years, I'd hate to see it go down," Weaver said. "It's an integral part of Glendale."

The council is waiting until the new fiscal year to see how much money the foundation has raised before they decide on the proposal.

The council on Monday directed city staff to create an account where residents concerned about the float's potential demise could send tax-deductible donations. But a majority of council members reiterated that they would not support committing general-fund dollars to the float.

West Covina's decision to scrap the float was difficult, said Chris Freeland, assistant city manager and vice president of the West Covina Rose Float Foundation Board.

"It was very tough for the foundation to meet its budget for this past year, and as they looked at this upcoming year, they realized that it's just getting more and more difficult to raise funds from business sponsors and residents," Freeland said. "The Tournament of Roses was always very pleasant to us, but ultimately it came down to the fact that we didn't have the ability to raise funds this year."

Freeland said that when West Covina first entered a float in the parade, in 1999, it was mostly sponsored by the city. However, tough economic times in 2004 prompted city officials to give control to the foundation.

"They were unable to justify spending those types of funds at the time," Freeland said. "It literally meant funding a police officer or a float."

In Burbank, parks officials had proposed eliminating the $67,500 contribution to the Burbank Tournament of Roses Assn.

But City Council members balked at the idea and said the value of the volunteers and the quality of the city's float each year outweighed any short-term budget savings from eliminating the contribution. Instead, they moved to reduce funding by 10%, to $60,800.

"It's not going to balance our budget or break our budget, but I felt that the 10% [reduction] and no more is something I think we can work with," said Councilman David Gordon.

Although the decision has yet to be finalized, the Alhambra City Council has also proposed eliminating the $100,000 it typically gives the city's Chamber of Commerce for the float. The chamber has said it will build the city's 87th float despite the reduced funds.

Parade officials said difficult financial times have affected all float sponsors, but they are not concerned about participation levels for the 2012 event.

"Usually we're given official word if someone is not participating in the parade," said Caryn Eaves, director of public relations for the Tournament of Roses. "We have not been told anything by Glendale. The city of West Covina did drop out, but that was for fundraising issues. Other cities are completely on board."

Photos: 122nd Rose Parade

melanie.hicken@latimes.com

katherine.mather@latimes.com

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