Do all businesses benefit from the BOLT?
[ By Mark Reaman ]
The Crested Butte town council agreed to overlook a late grant application deadline for the Crested Butte-Mt. Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce and awarded the organization $1,500 to subsidize the Butte Bucks program. That program sells $10 coins for $8 with the difference made up from the participating businesses and Chamber.
Given staff turnover, the Chamber missed the fall grant application deadline, but new Chamber operations and events manager Alyssa Moore came to the council on Monday, December 7 asking for $3,500. Town finance director Rob Zillioux recommended turning down the request because the application was not only late, but the request didn’t meet town policy since it was not money meant for a non-profit organization.
“I know this is late and I understand Rob’s response,” said Moore. “But we see this as a way to help local businesses and by having $30,000 in coins being used right now, it should generate $2,800 in sales tax for the town. But we will plan further ahead for next year so thanks for even considering for this year. Any help would be appreciated, but we understand the situation.”
Councilmember Jason MacMillan said the promotion does help middle class people and he cited a few times he and his family have used Butte Bucks to help afford purchases at local businesses.
Moore said she is seeing a lot of locals shopping in town right now and postulated Butte Bucks helped motivate them.
Councilmembers Beth Goldstone and Chris Haver expressed discomfort with awarding the grant under the circumstances but MacMillan made a motion to partially fund the request at $1,500. Ultimately all councilmembers at the meeting approved his motion.
Deeper discussion coming
On another Chamber matter, the council also unanimously approved the service agreement between the Chamber and the town. The agreement will provide the Chamber with about $54,000 during 2022 that comes from BOLT (Business Occupation Licensing Tax) revenues collected from local businesses. Each business located in town purchases a business license for $100 and $75 of that is transferred to the Chamber. The money is then spent primarily to maintain the Visitor’s Center, promote local business and put on local events. Local businesses can also buy memberships with the Chamber to help fund its services.
Councilmember Anna Fenerty said she has received feedback about marketing the valley and felt this could perhaps be a chance to have that discussion with Chamber officials. Town manager Dara MacDonald said the marketing from that BOLT money was steered toward helping visitors already in the valley and not attracting more here. Fenerty suggested it would be good to survey the 750 businesses that contribute BOLT funds and see if they think the money is being utilized wisely.
“This is very different from marketing like TAPP (Tourism and Prosperity Partnership) does,” said Haver.
“The agreement says it is tied to marketing and events,” added Goldstone. “I’d like a report on where the money goes too.”
“It sounds like a conversation with the Chamber over what they provide is in order,” suggested mayor Ian Billick.
“My question is how helpful is the Chamber of Commerce to all the businesses that pay the BOLT tax,” said Fenerty.
Town manager Dara MacDonald said while a robust conversation with the Chamber is fair it might not be fair to suddenly pull 2022 money it had budgeted at the last minute.
The council agreed in general, but Goldstone emphasized she wanted to pursue the BOLT funding question. “They should use the money to support all 700 businesses and not just the 30 on Elk Avenue.”
“For me, it might be time to rethink events,” added Billick. “Things are different from 15 or 20 years ago and now a lot of people are feeling overwhelmed. It is important to have a conversation with the Chamber in 2022 and now they should know we want to have it, so we all need to plan on it.”
The council voted unanimously to approve the service agreement but expect an in-depth discussion with Chamber officials over finances and its future mission.