San Marcos City Councilmembers last week discussed allocations from the hotel tax. Photo by Andy Sevilla.
By ANDY SEVILLA
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.Email | Print