Quay County Sun - Serving the High Plains

Tax board approves $36,000 request

 


QCS Managing Editor

The Tucumcari Lodger’s Tax Advisory Board Wednesday approved the Tucumcari/Quay County Chamber of Commerce’s request for $36,000 in lodger’s tax proceeds, about $8,000 more than the chamber received in lodger’s tax funds last year.

The city commission now must give final approval to the allocation.

The preliminary approval for the allocation was passed on a 2-to-1 vote. Advisory board members Yvette Peacock and Heidi Engman voted to authorize the full $36,000. Board member Al Patel voted against the measure after proposing that the board authorize a $30,000 allocation.

Chamber Executive Director Patsy Gresham said half of the $36,000 she seeks would come out of the half of lodger’s tax receipts that are reserved by state statute to promote tourism. This amount would cover advertising in Route 66, railroad enthusiast and motorcycle tour publications, and, new this year, painting Route 66 logos on the pavement of Historic Route 66 Boulvard and covering Tucumcari’s wall murals with a protective, transparent coating.

The other half, she said, would come out of the half of lodger’s tax money that state statute reserves for “executive” functions that include administrative costs and paying down debt for the convention center. The chamber’s portion of this half, she said, would cover costs the chamber incurs to carry out lodger’s tax functions for items like office supplies, telephone and internet, training and outreach programs that serve lodger’s tax purposes, as well as about a third of Gresham’s salary, she said.

“From 65 percent to 75 percent of our time is spent on lodger’s tax-related activity,” Gresham said of the chamber.

The advisory board’s vote followed a sometimes testy exchange between Chamber Executive Director Patsy Gresham and Mayor Robert Lumpkin, who attended as a non-voting liaison for the city commission.

On Thursday, Lumpkin explained he was trying to present both sides of whether the chamber should receive its full request and that he was in favor of the chamber receiving the full allocation. He said that on Wednesday, he was attempting to give objective information to the board for consideration.

At Wednesday’s meeting, Lumpkin seemed to be urging caution in granting the chamber’s request.

“We want to make sure we’re spending the money in the best way we can,” he said. “What if another good idea came along? Would we have enough money to support it?”

Lumpkin also asked “How do we know the advertising is actually reaching its intended audience?”

He also questioned the added burden on city workers to paint Route 66 logos onto traffic lanes.

“We’ll supply the workers,” Gresham said, meaning volunteers.

Lumpkin also pointed out that lodger’s tax funds are allocated without knowing what lodger’s tax revenues will be in the following year.

Earlier, Gresham pointed out that lodger’s tax revenues have been increasing every year since 2010, and there was no reason to believe they would be less in the fiscal year that ends June 30, fiscal 2014. Citing numbers from the University of New Mexico’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research, she noted that Tucumcari’s lodger’s tax revenues had increased from $463,000 in 2010 to $511,900 in 2013.

On Thursday, Lumpkin said, “With the economy moving up and down, it’s hard to predict the future.”

Lumpkin also broke down how lodger’s tax proceeds are spent, saying that $149,000 of the half of lodger’s tax money reserved for promotion goes to the Tucumcari Convention Center.“Why is that considered promotion?” Gresham asked. Later, Gresham explained that the convention center is used primarily for locally based functions, with Rockabilly on the Route and the annual Rattler Reunion as key exceptions.

In September 2013, the chamber’s request was cut from the $35,000 that the chamber had asked for and the lodger’s tax board had approved, to $28,000 after several weeks of wrangling between commissioners about several lodger’s tax measures. Other requests for lodgers’ tax money were tabled and action was delayed on them for more than a month.

 

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