LMD down 10% but summer not yet accounted for
By Katherine Nettles
TAPP (Tourism and Prosperity Partnership), the county organization charged with marketing the Gunnison Valley to tourism and recreation, managing tourism impacts and diversifying the local economy, is expecting a major trim to its budget next year. The anticipated budget cuts stem both from new spending by county commissioners on other priorities and from a reduction in Local Marketing District (LMD) funds, which create TAPP’s budget, coming in for the first half of 2023.
As reported last month, Gunnison County commissioners agreed to dedicate $1 million from LMD funds in their 2024 budget to fund the second phase of the Sawtooth workforce housing project in Gunnison, adding 30 housing units to the market, mostly for those making 80% or below area median income (AMI). LMD funds come from sales and lodging tax, and Gunnison County voters passed a ballot measure in 2022 allowing up to 40% of the county LMD budget to be used for workforce housing and/or childcare.
According to TAPP’s marketing director Andrew Sandstrom, $1 million represents about 29% of projected LMD revenue based on the LMD’s current 2023 projections of $3.4 million. “We fully expected the [commissioners] to allocate towards just this type of project. We know that our efforts in tourism, economic development and Western Colorado University are also dependent on the ability for people to find affordable housing.”
TAPP also put aside $250,000 in reserves at the end of 2022 to prepare for the successful ballot measure’s implementation.
However, Sandstrom said that LMD numbers were down for the first five months of the year as well. “Through May of 2023, we have seen a 10.7% decline in LMD collections when compared to the same timeframe in 2022,” he told the Crested Butte News.
While those initial five months track at or below the declines experienced by LMDs in other mountain resort communities on the Western Slope, Sandstrom said budget cuts are inevitable.
“Yes, we are working toward cutting down our budget significantly for 2024. Final decisions have not been made. In the end, we will propose a plan that has been approved by our board and present to the [county commissioners] in September. The [commissioners] serving as the LMD board will have the final say in approval of our proposed budget.”
Sandstrom also pointed out that final LMD numbers for 2023 are still far from settled.
“First of all, we aren’t certain how the year will end. Summer, arguably our most important period in terms of tax collections, hasn’t been finalized yet. We don’t even have numbers for June, let alone July,” he said. “Second, the reserves, which the county holds, are dependent on 2023 results and prudent financial management. Yes, we will be taking a budget cut, but we don’t have an exact amount at the moment.”
TAPP’s decisions on how and where to cut programs or marketing funds will be based on several factors, in addition to the decline in revenue.
“Is a program worth saving by dipping into reserves further? What programs are underperforming and should be cut? These are decisions that are being deliberated by both TAPP’s board of directors as well as the county commissioners,” concluded Sandstrom.