by MICHAEL FELBERBAUM,AP Business Writer
Lack of bucks means less bang this July Fourth for many cash-strapped cities.
Fireworks shows are being canceled or scaled back, mostly in small and midsize cities, as municipalities' tax revenue dries up with the slowing economy and falling home prices. Funding from corporate sponsorships also has fizzled as businesses deal with economic problems of their own.
The budget realities are forcing communities to decide, for example, whether they can pay for extra police and fire protection for a fireworks show — or perhaps pay an officer's salary for the rest of the year. And some organizers have concerns about seeking money for a celebration as communities struggle to take care of life-or-death needs worsened by the recession.
In some cases, it's not just the fireworks shows getting the ax. Municipal and corporate sponsors, forced into frugality by the tough economy, have reduced or pulled funding for whole festivals encompassing music, food and other staples of summer.
Fireworks fans acknowledge the tough realities, but also say free fireworks shows aren't frivolous — rather, that they're a nearly sacred institution."The economic calamity that has hit the nation is something that we can understand," Dave Richmond, 41, of Parma, Ohio, wrote in an e-mail after the city decided it couldn't justify a $25,000 fireworks show amid a tax revenue shortfall of $2.4 million and furloughs of city workers. But "we feel jaded and very disappointed that a celebration of what our Founding Fathers worked so hard to give us is squandered by those who collect and spend our tax dollars." Richmond has attended the celebration since 1972.
Some fireworks companies have reported that business is off about 10 percent from last year, said Julie L. Heckman, executive director of the American Pyrotechnics Association, an industry group.
"We've not seen communities struggle to the level that they are this year to be able to fund their shows," she said.