From stress balls, picture frames, and coffee mugs, to lapel pins and traditional coins, Wichita Falls is spending thousands of taxpayer dollars in an effort to put the city in the spotlight and promote city pride. At a time most local economies are pinching their pennies, many residents in Wichita Falls believe such spending is "wasteful."
Newschannel 6 filed an open records request with the city of Wichita Falls to learn exactly how much money the city spends on promotional items. We learned, the past five fiscal years, the city spent more than $20,000.
On average, the city spends about $4,000 on promotional items each year. However, in the fiscal year of 2012, that number more than doubled. The expense for promotional items totaled $7,985.99.
Mayor Glenn Barham sat down with Brittany Glas to discuss the financial report. Mayor Barham told Newschannel 6 he did not know why it doubled, but that the city's spending was "justified."
"It's not too many dollars," said Mayor Barham. "When you're talking about $4,000 or even $8,000 on the overall city budget, it's a very, very small percentage," he continued.
Kevin Hugman, the assistant city manager for Wichita Falls, told Newschannel 6, "2012 was an anomaly year and there are reasons for that... that was not the norm."
Hugman said one possible reason for the spending hike in 2012 was because the city got a new logo in 2010.
"I don't know specifically, but, looking at what we had bought - the number of things, like with the ball caps, coffee mugs, the pens, and mouse pads and things... that I'm pretty sure that that was probably replenishing stock with the new logo," said Hugman.
City leaders also told Newschannel 6 bringing awareness to the drought situation and the need to conserve water may have also contributed to additional promotion costs. The assistant city manager suggested a possible "rollover" in funds from the 2011 budget could have been an additional factor in the 2012 fiscal year increase, as well.
Marketing experts in Texoma came to the defense of the city. Carla Bolin, former Vice President of the Chamber of Commerce and a large part of what made the launch of the Pride In The Falls campaign successful, said promotional items are necessary for any business or any city to be successful.
"We can't write our name on a piece of paper and say, 'Come see us!' We have to have materials and things to give so that when we leave, they remember who we were," said Bolin.
She continued, "Any city manager probably... any business owner probably will say, 'let's cut promotions before we cut salaries.' But, if you do that, you are cutting yourself off and putting yourself in the dark, and it becomes a spiral of no one seeing you, therefore nobody knows if you're in business anymore, therefore, no one talks about you."
Hugman agreed, "Even as a city, we have to market ourselves and we have to provide that positive image, and this is just one way to do that."
It is important to note the Pride In The Falls campaign was paid for through private donations, not through city funds. It is a separate entity.
The debate remains a matter of public opinion.
"Anybody can look at something and say that it's wasteful, in their opinion... Certainly what may be wasteful to you is beneficial to me, and what I may consider wasteful to me, may be beneficial to you," said Hugman.
You can read the full public financial record by downloading the two pictures attached to this story.