Show Me the Money says Prowers Lodging Panel

The Prowers County Lodging Panel received some, but not all the answers they wanted, as to how or when the state issues quarterly payments to the county tourism funding board, collected from a 2% tax on local motels.

Jana Coen, Prowers County Clerk and Recorder attended the monthly meeting on Tuesday, June 21, with county commissioner, Henry Schnabel.  Coen said her inquiry to the state secretary’s office showed that no individual person is responsible with issuing the county a check based on the 2 percent tax collected each time a motel room is used.  It’s more likely, she said, the assignment falls to an employee in the state secretary’s office.  Coen said there’s no pattern involved as to who does it, it’s just a matter of routine when the quarterly payments are made.  She said she was not able to determine why some checks for less than $5 were mailed out, anymore than checks for $9,950.  The checks have no notations to determine which quarter of the year is being paid out.  To date, the Lodging Panel has not received any payments for taxes collected in 2011, although there should be at least a quarter-year lag time through each year.  The panel usually has an annual budget of from $70,000 to $80,000 from which to dispense funds to help market tourist related events, but now has less than $20,000 on hand, due in part to a $5,000 payment that was refunded because of a cancelled event.

Panel president, Pat Palmer, said he has contacted state representative, Wes McKinley to get some answers on the panel’s behalf, but hasn’t yet received a reply.   The panel also asked if Coen could provide information on those businesses which may have not been paying their 2% levy.  She can’t, she said, “I’m the only person in the county with direct access to that information, but I have to obey state confidentiality laws, and cannot give out that information.”  Coen did say that she can’t discuss amounts, but can give a ‘yes or no’ if a business is listed as being current.  “But even then,” she offered, “my information is not current to the day, but runs a quarter year behind on those payments, so someone could really be up to date, but we wouldn’t know that until three months later.”  She added that quarterly payment forms are available which could be sent to all the motels in the county as a reminder, or an audit could be requested.  Commissioner Schnabel told the board that the county has been discussing a similar move, not for motels, but to determine if there are any transient businesses working in the county without a vendor’s license or not making their tax payments.  He said some larger counties have found they’ve been missing out on over a million dollars in taxes through non-payment.

Although the panel had no funding requests for their June Meeting, board member Anis Malkan motioned to authorize $5,000 to fund marketing costs for the annual Antelope Stampede, held by Lamar Community College every fall.  A decision was postponed until the panel has a chance to review the specifics on the request.

Pat Palmer suggested the panel consider for future meetings, a proposal to review past requests based on the positive dollar impact an event can make for the county.  He also suggested the panel consider categorizing requests based on the type of event proposed, finding a way to encourage new events to use the panel’s available funding, and equal or separate consideration for funding requests from non-profit and for-profit county events.   The next Lodging Panel meeting is set for July 19.

By Russ Baldwin

Filed Under: BusinessCommissionersCountyEconomyRecreationTourism

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