STANFORD — With the prospect of factory layoffs threatening Stanford's potential tax revenues next year, Mayor Bill Miracle says he wants to start a discussion about merging the Stanford arts program and the county's tourism program.
Such a merger could save money and provide a more robust arts program for the whole area, he said.
Miracle said Monday there is "a strong potential of more layoffs" at a manufacturing company within Stanford's city limits, but he declined to specify which company.
City and county officials including Miracle confirmed last month they had heard rumors that Affinia Brake Parts Inc. is planning additional layoffs beyond the 75-person layoff it announced in November.
But no one could confirm any official numbers or information concerning the rumors.
Lincoln County Economic Development Director Matt Belcher said this month he has yet to hear back from BPI after making continued attempts to contact their spokeswoman, Janet Smith.
Multiple messages left for Smith from The Interior Journal over the course of a month have not been responded to.
Miracle said he is concerned that if there are any more layoffs within city limits, it will reduce Stanford's payroll tax revenue and force the city to start considering cuts as it plans next year's budget.
Miracle said there are potential savings available to Stanford by merging its arts center budget with Lincoln County's tourism budget and creating a shared arts and tourism entity.
"To me, it just makes sense that we should be able to put something together here and save the taxpayers money," he said. "Politics sometimes get in the way because any time you make major changes, somebody's going to be afraid they're going to make somebody mad."
Such a merged program could potentially have a budget of $90,000-$100,000 and "would be a benefit to our taxpayers all around," he said.
This year, the Stanford arts budget is a little more than $48,000. Judge-Executive Jim Adams said Lincoln County spends somewhere in the vicinity of $53,000 on its tourism program.
Adams said he's open to discussing a merger but "would want to hold off until budget talks begin."
"I think there could be some advantage to that, business-wise," he said. "In today's economies, with today's budgets, you've got to look at everything."
Adams said he would want to see a merged program participating in activities across the county, not just in Stanford.
"If you combined the county and the city, then we're going to have to get some of the county involved, such as Crab Orchard and Waynesburg and Hustonville and the McKinney area," he said.
Stanford arts Director Bob Swett, who is planning to step down at the end of June, said he thinks a merged program could continue to set a great example for other area arts programs.
"My biggest thing is keeping the program alive," he said.
Swett said he would like to start working on a transition with whoever is going to replace him as soon as possible.
Lincoln County's tourism Director Jamie Leigh noted the two programs don't exactly do the same things.