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Glenwood Springs tourism grant fund has no money

John Gardner
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Events that typically rely on tourism grants through the city’s accommodations tax revenues, will not be getting any support this year.

City Council had to turn down $43,300 in tourism grant requests for 12 events at Thursday’s City Council meeting, because the tourism grant fund is nonexistent due to continually declining accommodations tax revenues. Council had previously awarded grants this year before the tax numbers were available.

The city projected roughly $150,000 of available tourism grants for 2010. In 2009, there was $158,000 available.



Accommodations tax revenues were down more than 27 percent for 2009. The city finance department projected the 2010 tourism budget based on 2009 numbers, minus 10 percent to accommodate any further losses. However, that was not enough to curb the 13.5 percent shortfall in the first two months of 2010.

The total amount of accommodation tax collected by the city in a year is split into two different programs. Eighty percent goes into development and implementation of a marketing plan promoting Glenwood Springs, related administrative expenses and operation of a visitors center. The other 20 percent is allocated for tourism promotion grants typically requested by local events that help promote tourism in town.



The city also allowed $100,000 of unspent marketing funds from 2008 to be rolled into the 2010 budget in hopes to curb the lost revenues in 2009. But the continuing losses were greater than anyone expected.

“It came to light just recently where we really are in the budget, and obviously we are in a situation where we can’t fund anymore grants,” said councilman Matt Steckler at Thursday’s council meeting. “There is a lot of things on [the list] that this community depends on, that we will not fund.”

Events like the Glenwood Downtown Market’s request of $4,000, the Glenwood Springs Downtown Partnership’s request of $15,000 for holiday lighting, the Sopris Barracuda Swim Team’s request of $5,000, and the Tri-Glenwood Triathlon’s request of $3,800, to name a few, will have to find other avenues of funding this year.

Nevertheless, council has awarded $45,450 in tourism grants for 2010, and the checks have been delivered, according to City Manager Jeff Hecksel. A short-term loan of $45,450 will be made from the city’s reserves fund to cover the costs of these grants. That money will have to be repaid in 2011, out of the tourism grant funds, to replenish the reserve accounts.

Any other accommodations tax revenues out of the 80 percent allocated to tourism grants will go to the tourism marketing budget to help cover the shortfall there. The Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association’s tourism promotion contract will have to be reduced by $55,000. The Tourism Marketing Fund, which is allocated in the Tourism Marketing Contract received by the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association for the past 22 years, will be reduced from roughly $600,000 to $546,474.

“It impacts the existing contract, which has a specific dollar amount in it,” Hecksel said. “Which will have to come back to council for amendment.”

The chamber also received $30,000 of the $45,000 awarded in the first round of allocations. Those funds are to promote between two and six tourism-related events.

Mayor Bruce Christensen took exception with that and asked Marianne Virgili, CEO and president of the Chamber Resort Association, if there was any funds that the marketing group could trim from the 2010 budget to help some of the organizations that will not likely receive funds this year.

“I’m willing to be flexible on this, but some of these things are important, too,” Christensen said.

Virgili responded by saying that the Tourism Board is waiting to hear from council just how much the tourism fund will be cut. But, she said, it was willing to work with the city to find a resolution.

“We are very sensitive to these other wonderful events,” Virgili said. “And would like to do whatever we can to work together.”

Councilman Stephen Bershenyi said that he would like to see a change in the current resolution that sets the formula to distribute the accommodation taxes to prevent this situation from happening in the future.

“It just breaks my heart to see us in a position where we can’t fund some of these things that make the downtown vibrant, and are so vital in the summertime,” Bershenyi said.

The current city resolution states that tourism promotion funds have precedence over tourism grants.

“The tourism marketing has a higher priority than the grants,” Hecksel said. “The grants go, then as revenues diminish, then the marketing gets reduced as well.”

Councilwoman Shelley Kaup backed Bershenyi’s point and said that she, too, would like to see some changes made.

“I would like to see some changes here. Obviously there was a big breakdown here,” Kaup said.

jgardner@postindependent.com


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