The Prowers County Lodging Tax Panel is giving thought to adjusting the amount of funding for some county events through a cap and if it’s worthwhile to continue to try to determine how many people spend the night in the county to attend those events. The cap will be aimed specifically at a one day only attraction.
Tax Panel President, Pat Palmer, asked board members to give some thought to those issues for discussion at the next monthly meeting. “We seem to get hung up on funding projects that don’t put heads in beds such as the Round-up concert or the draft horse display I’m going to stage. Somewhere we need to put a cap on this,” he said, adding “we beat ourselves to death on how many heads are put in beds. For me, it’s time to stop beating this drum because it’s dead. We have not ever really figured out how to get an accurate head count. We spend a lot of time on this more than it’s worth and we spend a lot of time discussing this every month.” Palmer said the Panel’s goal is to help get more visitors to town and put heads in beds with overnight motel stays, but efforts for accurate counts have never materialized.
The Lodging Tax Panel was created to manage and dole out requested funds from event organizers in Prowers County. The funds, a 2% tax on motel room use in Prowers County, are administered by the state, mailed to the County and dispersed by the Panel to help advertise events which will bring overnight visitors to the County. Palmer was referring to the perpetual problem of not being able to find out how many people stayed overnight specifically to attend one of these events, whether it’s a rodeo, county fair, concert, BBQ contest, conference, car show, fiesta or demolition derby. The motel rentals have been used as a benchmark to help determine the success of an event for future funding, but the means of achieving an accurate headcount never materialized. The Panel had put that follow-up task on the event organizers as part of their funding application forms. First time events obviously had no prior numbers to refer to, so they were given a bye, of sorts.
Two other situations have developed over the past several years which add a wrinkle to the equation. Event organizers have been requesting larger amounts now that contract fees have been funded along with marketing costs and the requests have been coming to the Panel months in advance of the event. Some early funding is necessary to secure a talent act for the Round-up Concert. Granting early requests have tied up funding through the rest of the year and because the state relinquishes the tax funds about four times a year the Panel has to tighten the purse strings. Board members developed a $14,000 contingency fund for these situations, but the Panel usually only receives from $80,000 to $90,000 a year based on motel use. Sometimes only three or four funding requests approach half the annual budget. The more an event attracts overnight visitors, the more funds are available for the future requests. The Panel has funded many annual events, but new and different ones are needed to increase funding or repeat events need to keep more visitors overnight.
It’s generally acknowledged that some events, while not attracting a lot of overnights, do bring people to the community and they will spend money at various retail outlets such as C Stores, restaurants and some downtown shopping places. The downside occurs as without any overnight motel guests to tax, the funding to help promote the events goes away. Palmer added, “We need to bend in some areas, and I think the county fair is one of them. There should be some events that this fund should help.”
Brad Semmens, board member, expressed the opinion that these changes will impact the mission of the Panel or the ability to tax the rooms. Semmens explained his reasoning, “I think you’d need to change the name of the tax entirely if you change the rules because the whole thing preached heads and beds in order to pass the voters. It was the whole thing.” Palmer said a review of the by-laws should be done on that matter.
The Panel held a board-officer election, maintaining the current status with Pat Palmer-President, Myrna DuVall-Vice-President, Brad Semmens-Treasurer and Jane Felter as Treasurer. The next board meeting will be held Tuesday, February 16 at 4pm at the PCDI offices.
By Russ Baldwin
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