San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

August 18th, 2009
Council approves more outlet funds

San Marcos City Councilmembers last week discussed allocations from the hotel tax. Photo by Andy Sevilla.

By ANDY SEVILLA
Associate Editor

A rather languid budgeting process among San Marcos city councilmembers took a tumultuous turn last Thursday, when the council tentatively cut spending for minority tourism, while pouring another half-million dollars into promotion for the outlet malls.

The city’s minority tourism board requested $68,465 for the Fiscal Year 2010 budget, the same amount it requested and received last year. The council decided, by a 4-3 vote, to not fund any of it. The dissent came from Councilmembers Chris Jones, John Thomaides and Gaylord Bose.

“This is something I have not voted for in the past few years, and I will remain consistent with that,” San Marcos Mayor Susan Narvaiz said.

Councilmember Kim Porterfield echoed Narvaiz, adding that the minority tourism board constitutes an unnecessary duplication of services. Porterfield said the minority tourism board should partner with the Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) in joint efforts towards attracting tourism.

“We attempt to service businesses that are mainly Hispanic, woman-owned, and other minorities,” said Leonard Cantu, Chairman of the San Marcos Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, which works closely with the minority tourism board. “We need resources for this industry.”

Jones asked CVB Director Rebecca Ramirez, whose organization is expected to receive more than $750,000 on top of its current fund balance, whether the CVB puts forth efforts in attracting minority tourism and conferences, including the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People), and conferences geared toward Asian-Americans, Native Americans, among others.

“We attract all conferences, regardless of race,” Ramirez said, adding that there currently is not a full-time person available to “solicit these.” Ramirez said the CVB reached out to the Native Americans recently, but had not done so for the NAACP or for conferences addressing Asian-Americans.

“I believe the CVB goes out and gets people to come in, regardless of who they represent,” Narvaiz said.

Ramirez said a partnership with the minority tourism board had not been a topic of discussion, but added that the CVB is willing to lend a hand.

“That (partnership) had not been something we have discussed,” Ramirez said. “But it can be something we can discuss and set up a partnership.”

While councilmembers killed funding for the minority tourism board, the outlet malls received a combined $557,000, even through the council said last year that its increased expenditure for the malls would be made one time only. Last year, the malls received a combined $557,000 after the agreement stood at $150,000 for years. The malls requested $752,500 on the FY 2010 budget.

“Last year we talked about it,” said Thomaides, who ultimately voiced approval of the funding. “And we talked about it being funded for a one-time thing.”

While running her mayoral re-election campaign last year, Narvaiz was grilled by challenger David Newman on the inflated increase in funding for the outlet malls, prompting Narvaiz to reiterate to San Marcos citizens that the increased funds for outlet malls in the FY 2009 budget was a one-time subsidy given the harsh economic times.

Narvaiz said last week that “semantics” played a role in her statements, and that council gave direction to try the subsidy for a year to gauge the results. Narvaiz said the results showed improvement in spending, which encouraged her support for the renewed funding.

On the FY 2010 budget, Prime Outlet Mall is receiving $307,000, while Tanger Outlet Mall is receiving $252,000.

“It would be my recommendation to fund (the outlet malls) at least at the same level (as the current fiscal year),” Narvaiz said, adding that, “It’s something that we have to protect. This is bringing in a lot of money that keeps our property taxes lower.”

Porterfield made the first suggestion to lower the amount awarded to the outlet malls and “diversify” how the hotel tax is spent, allocating more for conferences and sports tourism. Porterfield cited the “huge leap” from a partnership of $150,000 to an arrangement of more than a half-million dollars.

“I’m not in favor of making (funding) lower (for the outlet malls),” said Councilmember Pam Couch, who added that “if anything, we should increase funding.”

The hotel tax fund is broken down as:

– CVB receiving $663,226, down from its initial $685,226 request,
– CVB Conference Center Marketing Co-op receiving $45,000,
– CVB sports tourism receiving $60,000,
– Tanger Outlet Mall receiving $250,000, down from its $252,500 request,
– Prime Outlet Mall receiving $307,000, down from its $500,000 request,
– Arts Commission receiving $61,200,
– Main Street receiving $213,431,
– Tourist account receiving $11,690,
– Transportation receiving $25,000,
– Downtown Marketing Co-op (as suggested by Narvaiz) receiving up to $25,000 in matching funds for advertising downtown businesses.

Hotel revenues, which can be used for hotel/motel funding, are budgeted at $1,168,969 in 2010. In 2007, San Marcos citizens voted to approve a two percent venue tax added to the Hotel/Motel Fund in efforts to offset debt payments associated with the San Marcos Conference Center, which opened in late 2009.

Any revenues resulting from the Embassy Suites Hotel can only be used to pay debt service related to the Conference Center, and is not added to the Hotel/Motel Fund.

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11 thoughts on “Council approves more outlet funds

  1. This is disgusting, on both counts – the outlet malls and doing away with funding for the minority tourism.

  2. Paul,

    Our Forefathers said that governments (at all levels) were created for the sole purpose of protecting our rights. This duty is being completely ignored. Today, the city (as well as county, state and federal governments) is a corporation, with the sole business to make money and grow more powerful, all at your and my expense. The city government represents power, force and plunder.

    Now THIS is disgusting!

  3. … and I thought the Mickey Mouse Club died out years ago, who knew that it’s alive and well and meeting in the city hall chambers of San Marcos? I guess the mayor doesn’t have enough perma-temps employed at the “hispanically” owned businesses around town.

    I know this is asking a lot but could we have just a little wisdom and vision from OUR elected officials… wait I forgot, we didn’t elect them, they were bought by the corporate interests headquartered elsewhere.

    I guess the days of the unregulated “funds jar” at fund raising parties is alive and well.

  4. So half a million for the outlet malls is ok, but god forbid you give less than a fifth of that for minority tourism? Susan Clifford shows her true colors.

  5. Actually, my thoughts are best listed, unfortunately at some length and not all positively, in comments on the “contentious Council race” article in NS. The idea of putting all of everybody’s eggs in the fragile “Economic Development” gold rush basket is irresponsible and dangerous at best. Put out all of OUR grain, and attract enough chickens that many of them AND we will starve.

    When is economic development neither “economic” nor “community development”? When it is not sustainable and doesn’t cover the costs it generated. If we are what we say we are, people will come–and not only day-trippers or commuters–to add to our richness, charm and community, which are the real sources of longterm prosperity and livable- wage jobs.

  6. Actually, my thoughts are best listed, unfortunately at some length and not all positively, in comments on the “contentious Council race” article in NS. The idea of putting all of everybody’s eggs in the fragile “Economic Development” gold rush basket is irresponsible and dangerous at best. Put out all of OUR grain, and attract enough chickens that many of them AND we will starve.

    When is economic development neither “economic” nor “community development”? When it is not sustainable and doesn’t cover the costs it generated. If we are what we say we are, people will come–and not only day-trippers or commuters–to add to our richness, charm and community, which are the real sources of long term prosperity and livable-wage jobs.

  7. COS brings up a good point, aren’t we all supposed to be equal?? Why then does the city council, obviously under the direction of Narvaiz, find it adequate or appropriate to cut the funding of the minority tourism board? We heard it from the director of the Convention and Visitors Bureau that they do not put emphasis in attracting diversity into the city. Minimal efforts were made to bring in hispanic and black conferences, and none were put to bring Asian American conferences. We need the minority tourism funding! Diversity is only evident with every block throughout San Marcos, why would we halt its resources? Is it to subsidize the outlet malls, who are receiving over half million for advertising. Why do we continue intermingling in the private sector when the city is a public sector with big public problems that need addressing.

  8. can anyone tell me WHY we HAVE to give money to the outlet malls? what is it for? i think downtown and transportation need a lot more than 25k. the idea of the minority tourism board working with the CVB seems very reasonable to me. are we working to attract shoppers to the outlet malls so they stay at the new conference center and also shop at stonecreek?

  9. Why set aside additional funds to do something when you can simply make sure our existing funds are used properly in the first place?

    Rather than special funding for minority tourism, I would prefer to see the existing CVB receive some training in marketing to minorities so that those markets don’t remain untapped.

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