Tax board hands out less money
April 24, 2019
Entities and festivals that requested money from the Tucumcari Lodgers’ Tax Board during a special meeting Wednesday often received less — sometimes much less — due to budget constraints.
The board needed to set its fiscal-year budget by May 1 so the city of Tucumcari could draft and submit its budget to the state’s Finance and Administration Department by June 1. The lodgers’ board asked entities or festivals that wanted financial aid to make presentations Wednesday.
In the end, most received less than they had asked for because the board would have faced a $35,000 deficit if the requests had been funded in full.
Here is how much those entities requested and how much they’re recommended to receive, with the Tucumcari City Council having final approval:
• Tucumcari Railroad Museum: $7,343 requested; none received.
• Tucumcari/Quay County Chamber of Commerce: $41,600 requested; $25,000 received.
• Rattler Reunion: $7,000 requested; $3,000 received.
• Wheels on Fire 100: $2,000 requested; $2,000 received.
• New Mexico Music Showcase: $9,000 requested; $8,000 received.
• Rockin’ Route 66: $23,500 requested; $20,000 received.
• Fired Up: $9,000 requested; $8,000 received.
• Tucumcari Rawhide Days: $24,000 requested; $12,000 received.
In all, entities asked for $123,443 in aid. They received $78,000 — about 63% of what had been requested.
Several board members clearly were uncomfortable making cuts to the bidders’ requests on short notice. Chairman Larry Smith said the process seemed “rushed,” and the lack of time to digest the bidders’ presentations made their decisions “not as well-informed as it should be.”
City Finance Director Rachelle Arias noted the board had overspent by $73,000 last year when it granted all of the entities’ funding requests, dropping its cash reserve to less than $20,000. Arias said after the meeting the board last year asked the Lodgers Tax executive side to assume $75,000 in expenses from the Tucumcari Convention Center, but that idea was rejected, resulting in the cash drain.
Board members quietly chatted among themselves and passed slips of paper with proposed figures on them before settling on the final numbers.
Chamber director Carmen Runyan said most of the money she’d requested would be used to buy advertisements in magazines such as Route 66 Magazine, American Road, Route 66 New Mexico, Route Magazine and Roadrunner and social media. But board members fretted over redundancies with the chamber’s duties and the Sunny505 marketing firm hired by the city last year to boost Tucumcari tourism.
With the railroad museum, board members expressed discomfort with giving money to a museum alone. Frank Turner, who made the presentation on behalf of the museum, said it would use the money for billboards along Interstate 40 at San Jon and Newkirk, plus a working model-train set with advertisements at the Glenrio Welcome Center near the Texas border.
TJ Riddle of Tucumcari Rawhide Days hiked her request from $15,000 last year to $24,000 this year, acknowledging “huge aspirations.” She admitted the large increase was a negotiating ploy to secure a lower-but-still-high number. “I can play the game,” she said. She said the festival planned to spend more on direct mail to households in Clovis and Portales, and this year’s festival would charge a $5 parking fee to boost revenue. She admitted she did not have attendance numbers or motel stays for Rawhide Days.
But at least one board member blanched at Riddle’s large funding bid. Smith noted Rawhide Days was in its fifth year and expressed hope “it would become more self-sufficient over time.”
Brian Whitcomb of Hot Pan Productions that is producing the Rockin’ Route 66 festival said his long-term goal is to let the community come together, help other similar events expand and spread the word about Tucumcari through his company’s social media and magazines. Whitcomb said he also is looking at establishing an office in Tucumcari. “We would very much like this to be a hub,” he said.
Jerry Lopez of the New Mexico Music Showcase noted the festival is the only one in the region that promotes Hispanic culture. He was planning on buying ads on social media and music-streaming sites. He said the showcase is a proven success, with the Best Western hotel confirming 72 rooms booked for the festival last year.
Chris Tapia of Tucumcari MainStreet decreased its Fired Up funding request for $12,500 last year to $9,000 this year. He said the festival spent $6,000 for an online campaign last year that wasn’t warranted compared to the increase in attendance.
Todd Duplantis, a city commissioner speaking on behalf of the Rattler Reunion, said attendance at the annual event had declined to as little as 126 several years ago. Thanks to using websites to publicize the event, Duplantis said attendance last year had rebounded to more than 400. Organizers wanted to use two-thirds of that money for brochures and publications.
Brandon Goldston said the number of participants at the Wheels on Fire 100 event was 107 last year, and he set a goal of 150 this year. He’s sending rack cards to other cycling events in Texas and New Mexico. He said many cyclists come from urban areas that enjoy the small-town atmosphere of Tucumcari and rural surroundings and often return to town when they’re traveling through the area.