The Montezuma County Lodgers Tax Committee plans to refocus distribution of lodgers tax revenues toward a new convention center instead of two local Chambers of Commerce.
The lodgers tax raises an average of $150,000 per year, and funds are distributed annually through a grant-application process to local chambers of commerce and tourism organizations.
But “after a lot of deliberation, starting next year,” the committee will direct more revenues to support a new convention and events center, said committee member Brian Bartlett during the county commissioners meeting Tuesday.
The effort is expected to raise $50,000 to $70,000 annually, he said. The money could be used for feasibility studies, grant matches, and potential financing for a convention center.
The Mancos and Dolores chambers, which typically receive around $30,000 annually from the lodgers fund, are expected to face cuts over 75% starting in 2020. The Cortez Chamber of Commerce is not impacted because their budget does not rely on funding from the county lodgers tax.
Mesa Verde Country will face smaller cuts, Bartlett said, because the organization’s main mission is marketing tourism, which is more in line with the purpose of lodgers tax revenues.
Other agencies that rely on lodgers tax funding will also get less, including the Cortez Cultural Center and Galloping Goose Historical Society.
Using the lodgers funds toward a convention center creates a physical asset that in turn generates more revenue, said commissioner Larry Don Suckla.
“In the long run, it will benefit local businesses and increase tourism,” he said.
The commissioners give final approval of where lodgers taxes are distributed.
This year allocations included $60,000 to Mesa Verde Country, $29,000 to the Mancos Chamber, $28,000 to the Dolores Chamber, $20,000 to the Cortez Cultural Center, $2,500 for the Ute Mountain Rodeo, and $2,000 to the Galloping Goose.
The county fairgrounds were allocated $7,500, but the commissioners redirected it toward the reserve for the convention center.
Planning for the convention center is in its preliminary stages. The two locations being considered are remodeling the 66,000-square-foot old Walmart building in Cortez Plaza or a new facility at the county fairgrounds. The next meeting is at 10 a.m. June 3 at the Colorado Welcome Center in Cortez.
The county commission has offered to use county reserves to pay for construction at the fairgrounds location, if the city of Cortez and other organizations agree to fund annual operations. Boosters envision a modern facility between a 20,000- to 35,000-square-foot building with a main meeting room capacity of 700 to 1,500 people. There would be additional breakout meeting rooms, a commercial kitchen, indoor and outdoor eating areas, landscaped grounds, lots of parking and an outdoor amphitheater. Cost estimates are between $4 million and $7 million.
The 1.9% county lodgers tax is applied to 1,365 rooms in unincorporated Montezuma County, Dolores and Mancos, including five hotels, four bed-and-breakfasts, 14 campgrounds and RV parks, one hostel, 10 vacation rentals by owner, 14 cabin rentals and three guest ranches.