While Fake Patty’s Day creates plenty of problems for local police, attendees leave behind a trail of green in the Little Apple The event has grown from a single day drawing mostly K-State students to a weekend bacchanalia attracting thousands from around the region. Started after the turn of the century, it exploded in 2010 and has led to a debate about the fiscal and social cost to the public ever since.
Riley County Police Department director Brad Schoen calls the event, which allegedly started so students could celebrate St. Patrick’s Day in Manhattan, “a celebration of making bad decisions.”
While city officials and police have lamented the cost of the drunk fest, they have, at times, appeared unwilling to acknowledge its economic benefits.
Hotels in Manhattan are filling up quickly for the March 11 event and local restaurants see an uptick in business over the weekend.
The Irish-themed holiday normally falls when students are on spring break. This year, the real holiday is Friday, March 17, the last day of classes at K-State before the break. Lyle Butler, president of the Manhattan Area Chamber of Commerce, said the event definitely has an positive economic effect on the city. The problem in determining that effect is it lacks an official sponsor. “For events like Country Stampede or football games, there are people we can go to get specific information that can help us determine economic impact,” Butler said. Without an official organization or sponsors the chamber is left with only anecdotal information such as hotel bookings.
COSTS, FINES, FEES
Schoen told the Riley County Law Enforcement Agency Board last month that 2017’s Fake Patty’s Day will cost the department $50,000 to $60,000, mostly in overtime expenses.
“That cost is only a part of the puzzle and doesn’t include fire and emergency management, so everybody takes a hit,” he said. But the RCPD also writes plenty of tickets for things like parking violations, possession of an open alcohol container in public and other infractions, that generates money from fines, fees and court costs for the city. In 2016, police issued 728 citations over a 35hour period encompassing Fake Patty’s Day. That’s about 6.4 percent of the roughly 11,400 citations processed in Manhattan Municipal Court last year. The total revenue from citations for last year’s event, as of March 1, 2017, was $126,420.99, or 7.4 percent of the court’s total revenue in 2016. Another $18,000 is outstanding from unpaid citations. RCPD spent a little over $42,000 on nearly 900 hours of overtime for Fake Patty’s Day in 2016 for officers, jailers, dispatchers and clerical workers. Schoen said in a typical weekend officers work about 10 to 12 hours of overtime. Weekends with major cases have had up to 120 hours of overtime, but that is a rarity, Schoen said.
RCPD also paid almost $4,000 for officer support from the Junction City Police Department, gasoline for utility vehicles, wireless communication equipment and setting up a command post in City Park.
The city funds 80 percent of RCPD’s budget, with Riley County picking up the rest. So Manhattan taxpayers are on the hook for about $37,000 of those expenses.
Possession of an open alcohol container in public was the most common offense in 2016, with 289 citations issued. Police issued 81 citations for minors in possession of alcohol and 12 citations for driving under the in- fluence of alcohol. If you subtract the fees assessed — about $45,000 — to pay the cost of operating the municipal court, the city took in a little over $81,000 from citations. That includes parking violations, which don’t have court costs. Those accounted for almost 30 percent of all citations issued in 2016. Schoen noted an increase in drug use associated with the partying in past years. Marijuana citations increased to 18 in 2016, up from 14 the year before. “When you bring that many people into Manhattan for the express purpose of partying you are going to see more drug activity,” RCPD Capt. Josh Kyle said at the February law board meeting.
In a tweet two weeks ago, the department said more than a dozen agencies will aid RCPD during Fake Patty’s Day.
“We have some reciprocal relationships with law enforcement agencies in other communities,” Schoen said, noting the RCPD doen’t pay outright for all the assistance, but area taxpayers do pick up the tab when RCPD officers return the favor.
Schoen said the event affects the entire department, even if the attendance is off. “Pretty much nobody gets time off that weekend,” he said. “If the weather is bad all day, the activity might be low but we’ve already got all these people scheduled and committed. You can’t just say, ‘Nevermind guys.’”
Linda Mays, executive director of the Aggieville Business Association, said the event provides an economic boost for many business in the district. “It brings in a lot of money for lots of businesses,” she said.
Bar workers want to work that day for the tips, Mays said. But, the weekend of revelry isn’t a boon to all Aggieville businesses. In past years businesses, like Shaggieville and On the Wildside, that don’t serve alcohol close for the day. In order to help those retailers, Mays said the association received a city permit to allow retailers to hold sidewalk sales at this year’s event.
The economic impact also spills outside of Aggieville. And some educated guesswork can suss out how much the city gets in taxes from the event. At least 12 Manhattan hotels showed no rooms available on March 11 in a TripAdvisor search Friday. Several other hotels had only a few spaces available with the cheapest room checking in at $66. A similar search for hotel rooms on March 4, which featured home games for K-State’s men’s basketball and baseball teams, showed only two soldout hotels. The cheapest room was $46. Manhattan’s sales tax is 8.75 percent, of which 6.5 percent goes to the state. Riley County and the city each get 1 percentage point of every dollar spend, and another 0.25 percent goes to pay off city debt on socalled “quality of life” projects. The rate is 9.25 percent in the Fourth Street redevelopment area and a restaurant district on McCall Road.
In addition to the normal sales tax, the city levies an additional 6 percent “bed tax” on hotel rooms and keeps virtually all of the money, which it uses the cash to promote the city, among other things. There are nearly 1,400 hotel rooms in Manhattan. The full ones on March 11 account for about 850 rooms. It’s tough to say how many are directly related to Fake Patty’s Day, but that number is significant.
If 600 rooms are booked for the event at an average of $100 per night, that’s $60,000 in revenue for area hotels, $3,600 in bed tax money to the city and $600 each for the city and county in sales tax, not counting the special taxing districts or the special sales tax in the city. There’s additional sales tax collected on things like plastic cups, meals and commemorative T-shirts. The amount collected on any given weekend isn’t publicly available. Attendance estimates have varied from 6,000 to 10,000 over the years, but let’s say in an average of 8,000 people show up and spend their money conservatively. If those celebrators each spend an average of $20 on non-alcohol items, that’s $160,000 in sales, generating $1,600 in tax to each the city and county. Liquor taxes can get a little hazy, but basically there’s an 8 percent tax on alcohol bought at retail outlets and a 10 percent tax on drinks in bars. It the 8,000 attendees each spend $25 — half at liquor stores and half at bars — for the event, that’s $100,000 at each, or $8,000 in tax at retailers and $10,000 at bars. Kansas keeps about 30 percent of that $18,000, the other $12,600 is sent to the city, which divvies it up in thirds among its general fund, special parks and recreation fund and the Special Alcohol Fund. For reference purposes, the city received $1.43 million in 2015 from alcohol taxes.
The state also collects a “gallonage” tax on beer, wine and spirits from manufacturers, but it keeps nearly all of that money. In total, between citations minus court costs, and estimated sales, liquor and bed taxes, the city collects in the neighborhood of $105,000 from Fake Patty’s Day. It’s share of the police budget and the cost to staff the municipal court in 2016 was about $90,000.
From a dollars and cents perspective, the city comes out ahead by roughly $15,000. Is Fake Patty’s Day worth it? That’s a question for which there’s no objective answer.