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New Market council OKs money for chamber

By Alex Bridges

The New Market Chamber of Commerce may need to work with less local aid next year.

Town Council approved a fiscal 2015 budget at its regular meeting. The spending plan now includes $3,500 as a contribution to the New Market Area Chamber of Commerce. However, the amount falls short of the $6,000 that the organization requested from the town for next fiscal year. The town has historically given the organization $5,000.

The chamber now must decide its next move given that it can expect to receive less money next year, President Cathy Wittig-Donald said Tuesday.

"We appreciate the support that they're giving and it will help us to maintain the office for the rest of the year and then we can figure out what to do," Wittig-Donald said. "Without the contribution, we're going to have to strictly rely on volunteers, which is difficult when the members are business owners."

Council had been considering a fiscal 2015 budget that included no funding for the chamber. At a recent public hearing on the proposed budget, council heard from many chamber supporters who asked that leaders consider contributing at least some local money to the organization.

As the chamber president explained, the funding allows the chamber to pay a part-time employee to oversee the organization's office during the week. The chamber now operates in space provided by the Shenandoah Valley Battlefields Foundation at the historic Lee Jackson Building, 9386 S. Congress St.

The chamber alternates between Tuesdays and Thursdays one week and Monday, Wednesday and Friday the next. Wittig-Donald said the chamber board has not met yet to look at its options. The chamber may need to reduce the hours for the part-time employee and then fill the remaining days of operation with volunteers.

"Since we've moved to the Battlefields Foundation building ... we feel it's important to have somebody in there," Wittig-Donald said.

Wittig-Donald said the chamber may need to consider holding fundraisers to bridge the gap. The chamber already holds fundraisers to cover the costs of such promotional events as Heritage Weekend.

Council gave the chamber $4,000 initially in the current budget then an additional $1,000 to cover the organization's costs to publish its newsletter. The chamber won't be able to publish a newsletter this coming fiscal year because of the lack of funds, Wittig-Donald said.

Town Council voted 6-0 to approve an ordinance for adoption of the fiscal 2015 budget. Interim Town Manager Mike Ritchie said the approval came with the condition that the $3,500 be transferred from marketing and events to community support and donations, earmarked for the chamber.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com

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