Glenwood Springs Council walks back plan to strip tourism board funds
The Glenwood Springs City Council changed course last week on a proposed budget measure that would have taken $60,000 from the Tourism Promotion Fund to pay for downtown maintenance.
The public comment at the Oct. 18 council meeting on the proposed 2019 budget was predominantly about the plan to take money from the tourism fund to maintain the downtown public spaces. Every speaker in that discussion asked the council not to strip money from the fund.
The board is primarily funded by the city’s special accommodations tax, and its charter stipulates that the money be spent promoting tourism.
Nancy Heard, treasurer of the Tourism Promotion Board, said the returns for the money the board spends on promotion are too great to ignore.
“Reducing the tourism promotion budget by $60,000 will potentially lead to a loss of $8 million in gross revenues for Glenwood Springs, which equates to $286,000 in lost tax revenues for the city,” Heard said.
Marketing Glenwood Springs as a destination has helped bring $146 million in visitor spending at various lodging facilities within the city limits, Heard said.
The funding transfer was devised not to affect the Tourism Promotion Board’s operating budget but draw from the fund reserved for unexpected dips in visitors to the town.
Though the council has an upcoming work session scheduled with the Tourism Promotion Board, a few councilors wanted to address the issue and remove the funds transfer from the budget.
“Very rarely do we up here get a chance to actually invest money that has a correlated return to it,” Councilor Todd Leahy said. “You guys do a great job budgeting your money, so you have reserves.”
The board keeps a fund to market Glenwood Springs in situations like a fire or the bridge construction. Leahy wondered why the city would punish the tourism fund for being responsible.
Leahy’s motion failed, with the council opting to change the budget at the meeting. The council decided to keep the special work session with the Tourism Board to discuss the issue further.
“We are desperate to figure out how to fund some of the departments,” Councilor Steve Davis said, and maintenance is critical to tourism. Still, Davis thought the Tourism Board shouldn’t be responsible for maintenance.
“I see as part of tourism to keep the downtown spick-and-span clean,” said Councilor Shelley Kaup, who advocated for keeping the funds transfer. “It’s important to share some of those costs.”
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The town would join Aspen and Glenwood Springs in prohibiting flavored tobacco sales and licensing retailers.