Town wants to tighten oversight of admissions tax

Mt.Crested Butte discussion

As the town of Mt. Crested Butte begins to shape up its 2009 budget, one of the things the town is taking a close look at is how funds from the admissions tax are distributed.




On Tuesday, October 21, the council considered two requests for admissions tax fund contributions, but took a cautious approach when making its contributions.
Mt. Crested Butte voters approved the admissions tax in 2002, levying a 4 percent sales tax on events or activities that charge admission, such as concerts and lift tickets. For 2008 the town is expecting to receive nearly $400,000 from the tax. Seventy-five percent of the accumulated funds can be distributed for various marketing purposes, and the remaining 25 percent goes to transportation and has typically been given to Mountain Express.
Other beneficiaries include the Gunnison-Crested Butte Tourism Association, Crested Butte Mountain Resort (CBMR), the Crested Butte/Mt. Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce and the Mt. Crested Butte Town Center Community Association.
At Tuesday’s meeting, town manager Joe Fitzpatrick said there was approximately $77,000 left in the admission tax fund for the year, but more was expected to come in once ski season begins.
With requests for admissions tax contributions being heard nearly every other meeting, the council has had lengthy discussions about which proposals would carry the most benefit for the town. Council member Dave Clayton said some groups that have received admissions tax funds, like CBMR and Crested Butte Lodging, have made a concerted effort to prove the money is a good investment for the town by using website tracking and calculating the associated tax returns from additional visitors. Clayton said the town hoped to see similar efforts made for future contributions.
“We’re going through the process of trying to determine how we spend marketing money. We need to get a handle on what we have, what we are spending and how we want to spend it, before we go too far down the road and have $1,000 left,” Clayton said. “We want to make sure money we’re giving out is coming back.”
Council member Gary Keiser agreed. “We need to set up criteria, categories of funds and what type of things we want to accomplish. Our process has been very hit or miss… It’s not a very organized approach,” Keiser said.
On Tuesday representatives from the Tourism Association asked for a $20,000 contribution for a radio advertising campaign on WBAP radio in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. They also presented information about a potential Internet marketing campaign targeting the Chicago, Atlanta and Los Angeles areas. The Internet campaign would feature e-mail blasts and website banner placements.
Clayton supported the web campaign over radio advertising. “One of the concerns I have with general ad placement on radio is 90 percent of the people who listen are not skiers and could care less,” he said. Concerning the web campaign, Clayton said, “The people they’re targeting to already want to go skiing.”
Keiser asked the Tourism Association representatives to make an effort at tracking the marketing campaign’s success. Marketing director Rob Strickland said they would do so.
The council approved an $11,000 contribution to fund the web marketing campaign for the three towns, and agreed they would be open to further web proposals that could track their return on investment.
During the meeting the council also heard from Community Foundation of the Gunnison Valley executive director Pam Montgomery, requesting $10,000 to advertise an upcoming event called Rural Philanthropy Days.
The event is being held in Mt. Crested Butte next June, and, according to Montgomery, “is a time that brings non-profits and Front Range funders together to discuss particular projects and issues common to the Western Slope.”
Montgomery said advertising efforts would include a print piece mailed directly to 1,700 non-profit organizations in a seven-county area, as well as a website with information about the upcoming event.
Mayor William Buck supported the idea. “These are exactly the type of programs we’ve been trying to get… I do see tremendous merit in it,” Buck said.
Clayton said he would like more time to consider the idea, but asked what amount of funding would help Montgomery get a head start on advertising. Montgomery said a minimum of $1,000 would help cover graphic design costs.
The council ultimately approved a $5,000 donation, but was once again open for additional requests that could show merit.
The council will continue its discussion over admission tax criteria for contributions during an upcoming budget work session on Wednesday, November 5.
Furthermore, the admissions tax will sunset at the end of 2010, and is slated for the ballot during the town’s April election in 2010.

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