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State cutbacks leave Missouri in question

By:
Kirsten Frattini
Published:
July 10, 2009, 10:18 BST,
Updated:
July 10, 2009, 3:12 BST
Edition:
First Edition Cycling News, Friday, July 10, 2009
The St Louis finish.

The St Louis finish.

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Financial axe could bring misery to Missouri

The Tour of Missouri might be hit by a substantial freeze on state funding that would likely lead to the cancellation of the seven-day stage race set to begin on September 7. Governor Jay Nixon proposed on Monday that Missouri’s Department of Economic Development cut back 1.5 million dollars for the event, a move that would bring the event to a permanent end if the budget is cut.

According to Chris Aronhalt, managing partner of the race’s management company Medalist Sports, there is no turning back.

“Right now the funds will be frozen until the Governor makes a decision on the matter,” said Aronhalt. He expects to receive a decision as early as Wednesday next week. “But, there is no turning back. Operationally we are trying to stay positive that politically this will be resolved soon.”

The race costs US$3.3 million dollars to run and just weeks away from the events start date in St. Louis, Medallist Sports has already signed contracts for hundreds of thousands of dollars of expenses relating to the race’s operation. Furthermore the Missouri State would lose tens of thousands of dollars in lost revenue.

“We were informed this morning by the Lieutenant Governor’s Office,” said Aronhalt. “This is devastating from our perspective because we have a contract with the state of Missouri, they have made a commitment to us that the funding was in the State’s budget and that it was approved by the Governor.

“Some of the other half of the funding has already been spent on operational costs and planning since last year,” Aronhalt continued. “There has been money spent against the project already and the funds from sponsors would have to be refunded. It would also mean a breach of several contracts.

“From a political side there have been very heavy conversations happening but at the grass roots level we have received some overwhelming support to release the funds,” he said.

According to Aronhalt, should the Governor decide to pull the funding from the Tour of Missouri, the event would not likely return in the following years. “Events of this magnitude and the momentum that it gains over the consecutive years is so important to the building from year to year,” he said. “We were planning to have seven Tour de France teams participate. A hiatus would mean that unfortunately this tour would end.”

A letter sent to the State’s budget and planning office, outlined a spread of cutbacks totaling 10 million dollars. The 1.5 million dollars portion frozen for the Tour of Missouri is nearly half of the total cost of running the event.

"In order to meet the Department of Economic Development's goals of reducing Personal Services and reducing E/E in order to meet the overall goal to reduce our Department's expenditures by $9,980,762, below is an update on the FY2010 budget expenditure restriction plan," read the statement. "We would also propose to reduce the E/E line of the Division of Tourism Budget by not expending $1.5M for expenses related to the Tour of Missouri."

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