tax revenue won’t be controlled by lodging industry

Don't rush to put up another hotel just yet.

The community scored a small victory Tuesday when Teton County commissioners stood firm and thwarted a plan to cede control over lodging tax revenues to the lodging and resort industry.

Commissioners Andy Schwartz, Hank Phibbs and Ben Ellis, as well as Town Councilors Greg Miles and Melissa Turley, deserve praise for maintaining maximum flexibility for the makeup of the board that will oversee the newly reinstated tax.

“Our responsibility is not to the lodging industry or the ski community but to the people who passed it,” Schwartz said, according to the News&Guide.

Mayor Mark Barron had pushed a proposal that he said “stacks the deck,” requiring four of the seven members of the tax board to come from the lodging and resort industry. He also called for designating a seat for someone from an arts or cultural entity.

Now, elected officials will have a freer hand in selecting board members.

The 2 percent tax on hotel rooms, passed by voters in November after a 16-year hiatus, is expected to generate about $3.5 million annually. The board will control how roughly $2.1 million is spent on travel and tourism promotion, with the rest going to local government and visitor services.

State statute mandates that four of the seven board members come from the tourism industry, not necessarily lodging. Tourism could include restaurants, retail, recreation, cultural events and so on.

The Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce had lobbied hard on behalf of Barron’s plan, saying people involved in lodging and resorts have the most marketing experience and would be best qualified to serve on the board.

But throughout the campaign to get the tax passed, voters were wary of handing a huge subsidy to the lodging industry. Many citizens remain wary of overpromoting Jackson Hole, which is why the tax was defeated three times since 1994. Proponents have said marketing efforts will focus on winter and shoulder season visitation.

The town and county approved a joint powers agreement Tuesday to establish the lodging tax board without specific requirements for the makeup of the seats, aside from state statute. As a compromise, the two entities discussed a nonbinding advisory policy that would give “preference” to three members of the lodging and resort industry, but they could not reach a consensus.

The joint powers agreement ensures that future leaders won’t be shackled to appointing a majority of representatives from lodging and resorts, although members of those industries are expected to play a key role on the board.

According to the News&Guide, Commissioner Paul Vogelheim worried about the “message we’re sending to the community” when town and county didn’t agree.

After repeated promises to the contrary, stacking the deck in favor of the lodging and resort industry would have sent a far worse message.

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supporting the lodging tax, with reservations (Nov. 2, 2010)

Hallelujah: lodging tax finally resurfaces (Feb. 19, 2010)

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Posted under County Government, Economy, Politics, Town Government

12 Comments so far

  1. joe January 6, 2011 5:11 pm

    i guess they realized that peter moyer was right. too much money for just the tourist special interests. ain’t politics somethin!

  2. js January 6, 2011 5:39 pm

    To clarify, the mayor and others originally sought four seats for lodging and resorts on the board. But most of Tuesday’s discussion focused on reserving three seats.

    Hank Phibbs, according to the News&Guide article, resisted the idea of requirements, saying it’s better to pick board members based on merit, rather than quotas.

  3. joe January 6, 2011 6:20 pm

    i think everyone understands the political back-pedaling and realities that lie behind the merit smokescreen. I think most people in this valley are smarter than you give them credit for. ain’t journalism grand.

  4. dpc January 7, 2011 1:10 pm

    Something else to seriously consider is that this same joint-powers board is also responsible for administering the 30% of tax funds that are designated to mitigate visitor impacts. Placing individuals also well qualified to handle that important role is an critical and often overlooked consideration in this debate. This tax is not just about getting people here, it’s also about maintaining a quality experience for visitors and locals for the long-term.

  5. js January 7, 2011 1:35 pm

    @dpc: +1

    @joe: “political back-pedaling … realities … smokescreen.” Huh? Maybe I’m not as smart as you’re giving me credit for, or just not smart.

    If you’ve got a point to make, go ahead and say it.

  6. Brad January 7, 2011 7:29 pm

    Maybe I’m not as smart as the rest of you either. Is dpc correct? I thought the 30% (which mysteriously morphed out of 40%), was going to more specific infrastructure sctagories already established and not doled out by a (this) board; just the 60% promotional was. And what about that mysterious 10% administrative portion? Who receives that?

  7. dpc January 9, 2011 10:14 am

    The 10% goes to local gov’t general budgets (town &county).

  8. Chad January 9, 2011 12:04 pm

    I’m pretty sure the 10% goes to administer the fund. I.e. a staff/supplies to execute the plan.

  9. dave January 9, 2011 1:33 pm

    60% for promotion
    30% for visitor services impacts
    10% to local governments

  10. Brad January 9, 2011 9:59 pm

    I know the breakdowns, folks. More specifics are necessary. How long will we have to wait for them?

  11. js January 10, 2011 11:20 am

    I have the statute, and the breakdown is specified below.

    @dpc: I think there’s a little confusion because the statute stipulates that the joint powers board will distribute the money to the county/town. That’s merely a matter of procedure, as far as I can tell. Earlier, the statute spells out that the joint powers board must distribute to each governmental entity based on the share of the tax collected there (i.e. based on population breakdown).

    So, based on what I’ve read and what I’ve heard from insiders, the 30 percent of tax revenue earmarked for visitor services will be controlled by the town and county.

    Here is an excerpt from the statute:

    (1) Sixty percent (60%) shall be used to promote travel and tourism within the county, city or town imposing the tax in accordance with subdivision (I) of this subparagraph;

    (2) Ten percent (10%) shall be deposited in the general fund of the county. If the amount is collected under a tax imposed countywide, the joint powers board established under subdivision (a)(ii)(B)(I) of this section shall distribute the amount to the county for deposit in its general fund in the proportion that the amount collected outside the corporate limits of its cities and towns bears to the total amount collected within the county, and to incorporated cities and towns within the county for deposit into their treasuries in the proportion that the amount collected within the corporate limits of each city and town bears to the total amount collected within the county;

    (3) Thirty percent (30%) shall be used for the provision of visitor impact services within the governmental entity imposing the tax. If the amount is collected under a tax imposed countywide, the joint powers board shall distribute the amount to the county under the same terms and conditions as provided under subdivision (III)(2) of this subparagraph, but the funds shall only be used for the purposes specified in this subdivision. As used in this section, “visitor impact services” includes, but is

    not limited to, provision of vehicle parking, public transportation, public restrooms, pedestrian and bicycle pathways, museums and other displays.

    The entire statute can be found here.

  12. Brad January 10, 2011 7:33 pm

    Nicely laid out, Jim, and thanks for the link.

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