Most of them now will be required to pay a share of the costs associated with blocking streets and putting extra police officers in the area, under new rules approved in a 4-2 vote by Wichita City Council members Tuesday.
Police say it costs $2,109 on average to pay overtime to officers to staff parades and for fuel expenses.
Starting this year, the city will cover 80 percent of the cost of an average parade — $1,688. Parade organizers will have to pay any city costs beyond that.
In 2012, the city will cover the first $1,477 of expenses. From 2013 and onward, the city will pay $1,055 of the costs, charging any additional expenses to the parades.
The city has roughly 40 parades a year. Some of Wichita’s largest ones — such as the parade at RiverFest and the Wichita Toy Run — won’t fall under the new rules because they are classified as community events and have to pay 100 percent of costs associated with blocking streets and hiring officers to patrol the events.
Nancy Lawrence, president of Historic Delano Inc. and the organizer of the St. Patrick’s parade, said that the new fees will probably force her to forego the Christmas parade that she has organized for the past three years.
But she said she understands the city’s motive for the fees and feels it is fair.
She said the St. Patrick’s Day parade will go on — but probably with more expensive entry fees to cover security costs.
“There always is a way, whether it’s a fundraiser or asking for donations,” she said. “If you really want to have it, you can do it.”
But some smaller groups may not find a way, she said.
“These little parades won’t be able to do it, and that’s a shame,” she said.
Michael O’Donnell, the new council member in southwest Wichita’s District 4, opposed the parade fees because he said it treats some groups that are technically community events differently than others classified as parades — though they’re basically doing the same thing.
“It just seems little inconsistent,” he said. “I just want it to be a level playing field for everybody, and I don’t believe that was going to happen.”
He also said he thought the city should wait to put the rules into effect.
Vice Mayor Lavonta Williams also said the city should have given parade organizers more time before starting the fees.
She voted against the move.
Prior to the new fees, parade organizers paid only $50 for a permit.
But with the city’s budget crunch and roughly 40 open positions in the police department — mostly because some positions must be held open while officers are on active military duty overseas — the city wanted to recoup some of its parade expenses.
Mayor Carl Brewer said he knows some parade organizers oppose the move, but he supported it.
“It really does occupy a lot of time and a lot of resources we have and it is expensive for us to do it,” he said.
Police researched other cities’ cost sharing plans and met with several organizations that organize parades as they crafted the new rules.
Several groups said the fees will make it tough for them to continue their parades, police said.
But no one came to the council meeting to comment on the move.