Crested Butte council makes up Chamber budget shortfall

But a discussion about the Chamber’s future in the works

[  by Mark Reaman  ]

The Crested Butte town council has agreed to give the Crested Butte-Mt. Crested Butte Chamber of Commerce an additional $20,000 for the coming year to make up an operating budget shortfall caused by a reduction in historic funding normally provided by the town of Mt. Crested Butte. But the grant came with a condition that a major discussion about the future of the Chamber’s role in the community needs to be held before the 2023 budget period.

Both towns have historically collected an annual $100 Business Occupation Licensing Tax (BOLT) and 75% of that was funneled to the Chamber to help pay for Visitor Center expenses. Crested Bute’s contribution amounted to about $54,000 while Mt. Crested Butte’s was closer to $82,000. That is now closer to $66,000. 

Chamber of Commerce executive director Scott Clarkson explained that in Mt. Crested Butte the BOLT was changed from a tax to a fee in April of 2021 to provide administrative control of proceeds to staff rather than to town council, so it is now the BOLF. He said the $66,000 contribution was based on the 2022 projected operating cost of the visitor center in Mt. CB as provided by the Chamber. 

Clarkson reported during the February 22 Crested Butte meeting that some elements of visitor relations have been increasing such as walk-in traffic to the visitor’s centers and phone calls asking for information. He said he expected another busy summer at the visitor’s centers with more flights scheduled for the local airport and a steady increase in drive traffic demonstrated the last few years.

Crested Butte mayor Ian Billick expressed that he had hoped for more in the Chamber’s update. “I found the report to be disappointing,” he said. “It told us what you are doing but not why you are doing it. I was hoping for more depth.”

“We’re the one point of contact that visitors already here know they can find,” said Chamber board president Josh Futterman. “We’re the boots on the ground so to speak. We don’t want the visitor experience to be diminished and demand appears to be increasing.”

Futterman said the current situation could provide an opportunity “to strengthen the relationship between the town and the Chamber.”

In response to a question from Billick, Clarkson said the Chamber has not experienced the same staffing issues as many other local organizations and businesses. “Our staffing has been solid,” he explained. “We have a good connection with the local retirement community which has stepped up, so we haven’t had to scramble for staff.”

Clarkson said the Chamber is branching out to provide other service besides staffing the visitor center counters. He said it has a new workforce housing page on the website that lists the availability of units and is a service provided for free to owners of dwelling units. The Chamber is creating a member-to-member discount program to encourage local businesspeople to frequent each other’s businesses. He said they also hope to increase the number of business education seminars they provide.

On the request for the additional $20,000, the council supported the request. “I’m comfortable with it,” said councilperson Chris Haver. “I appreciate the Chamber and like the idea of sitting down to more fully discuss the relationship.”

“It might be time to re-envision the Chamber,” suggested councilperson Jason MacMillan. 

“I echo what Chris is saying,” said Billick. “We need to reflect on the future of the Chamber. I would like to see the logic of the activities it provides and what the town is now trying to achieve. We need to establish the value of the Chamber of Commerce within the goals of the town. That is a deep conversation after we complete the Community Compass process. But personally, I think there needs a complete rethink of what the Chamber is doing and how it relates to town goals.”

Billick said he supported the $20,000 funding request but wanted a deeper discussion about the Chamber’s role in the late summer.

Town manager Dara MacDonald said that “looping in Mt. Crested Butte would be helpful with that discussion as well.”

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