La Salle city officials voice concern about $76,412 price tag of Celebration of Lights

Capping payroll, expanding season length among suggestions to reduce city expense

The sun sets over the Celebration of Lights display on Thursday, Dec. 8, 2022 at Rotary Park in La Salle.

La Salle city officials voiced concerns at Monday’s finance committee meeting about the cost of the Celebration of Lights and offered potential solutions to bring down expenses.

Multiple aldermen said they were surprised when they saw the numbers of event profit loss being higher than expected.

“This cost us more money than I thought it was costing,” said Alderman Tom Ptak.

“It seems like the bigger it’s getting, the more it’s costing us,” said Alderman Jim Bacidore.

The 2022 season of the Celebration of Lights cost the city $76,412 to make it happen. While $139,917 in donations was raised, it’s not enough to cover all the expenses associated with the light show.

The 2020 season was the show’s most successful season because it was something residents could do safely during the height of the pandemic, Finance Director John Duncan said. In 2020, $197,381 was raised with a $66,649 profit loss. The 2021 season also was successful coming off of the pandemic, with $166,207 raised and a $52,281 profit loss.

No suggestions of canceling or drawing back the scale of the show were presented to reduce cost. The event attracted 21,600 vehicles through its gates.

Because payroll is one of the most costly aspects of the show, Duncan suggested hiring an outside contractor to set up the light show. Hiring an outside contractor to do the work would reduce payroll costs, Duncan said.

Ptak and Alderman Joe Jeppson also said they supported creating a cap on payroll to help reduce costs.

“It is a nice thing, it’s great for the community, but it’s at the expense of the La Salle taxpayers,” said Alderman Jordan Crane, adding later the city needs to find a way to cut the costs.

Alderman Bob Thompson also said he supports reigning in labor costs while also speaking to the benefit the show has on the city.

“When people stop and look at those lights, it puts La Salle in their mind and they come back later,” Thompson said.

Alderman John ‘Doc’ Lavieri suggested extending the length of the season of the show to allow more donations to come in. Duncan said this would be difficult because different sports need to use Rotary Park all the way up to when the show starts and ends for the season.

No action came from the discussion and the committee opted to take more time to evaluate potential solutions.

La Salle Mayor Jeff Grove has said the goal of the Celebration of Lights isn’t to make money for the city. Instead, it’s to provide a free activity for families, put La Salle on the map and attract new businesses while supporting existing ones.