The Mancos Town Board is requesting a joint meeting with Montezuma County commissioners to discuss distribution of lodgers tax revenue.
The Montezuma County Lodgers Tax Committee recently announced it might significantly cut funding from the Mancos and Dolores chambers of commerce, which could cause the Mancos Visitor Center to close. Committee members said the tax revenue could be better directed toward other tourism efforts, such as the county’s proposed convention center.
In light of the announcement, the board discussed the value of the Visitor Center at their regular meeting last Wednesday.
Friction on lodgers tax“The consensus of the Board was that lodgers tax collected outside of Cortez should not be spent in Cortez,” Town Administrator Heather Alvarez wrote in the minutes from the July 24 meeting.
Trustees also felt that a proposed convention center would not benefit Mancos, since it would likely be built in the Cortez area.
The lodgers tax raises an average of $150,000 annually, and funds are distributed to local chambers of commerce and tourism organizations through a grant-application process.
The tax committee is charged with distributing funds from a 1.9% lodgers tax levied on hotel room rental rates throughout the county. Lodgers tax money is supposed to support local tourism efforts.
This year, the Mancos Valley Chamber received about $29,000.
One of the critiques of the Lodgers Tax Committee was that the chamber wasn’t as involved in bringing “heads to beds,” according to Maggie Goodell, director of the Mancos Valley Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center.
In an email to the Dolores Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center – included in a Mancos staff report – Brian Bartlett from the Lodgers Tax Committee said that the tax dollars should not be used toward operating a chamber.
“Chambers of commerce (although important in some basic ways) actually do extremely little to promote and drive tourism into and through our area,” Bartlett said. “The only organization in our community that is actually tasked with doing this and that truly delivers on this task is Mesa Verde Country.”
Burgeoning summer sales taxesAt the July 24 meeting, the board looked at the numbers, comparing sales tax receipts to the number of business licenses in town.
In 2012, sales tax receipts were $328,405, while in 2018, the receipts were at $825,391, according to Alvarez. The number of business licenses in town increased from 81 to 109 over that same time period.
“There were consistent increases during the summer months,” she wrote. “This tells us that the majority of our sales tax increase comes from events, visitors and tourists to the Town rather than us seeing a huge increase in local business.”
During the meeting, Goodell also pointed to the chamber’s work over the past year: It served more than 1,000 visitors since Jan. 1, operated three information kiosks in town, and produced cards and pamphlets promoting local events, she said.
Bringing in outsidersIn terms of bringing in outsiders to Mancos, Goodell noted that about 40% of participants in the Cowboy Half-Marathon came from out of the area, the farmers market serves out-of-area customers, and $4,000 was spent on marketing in 2018. The Visitor Center and Creative District also produce an annual event schedule that appears in travel magazines.
The chamber seeks town support on this issue, and Mancos staff members and trustees looked into a few options: the town funding the Visitor Center at an annual cost of about $6,500, a resolution asking the commissioners to continue funding the center, and a joint meeting to talk over the issue in person.
The board preferred the last option. Alvarez and Montezuma County Administrator Shak Powers are currently determining an appropriate date.
H H H In other news:
The board approved a resolution supporting Montezuma County’s grant application to finish engineering work on Phase 1 of the Paths to Mesa Verde Trail.The Paths to Mesa Verde project will ultimately create a 17-mile trail connecting Mancos and Cortez. The project is being completed in two phases, with the first phase consisting of an 8-mile tract from Mancos to Mesa Verde.
The $193,350 grant is through the Colorado the Beautiful Grant Program, which is a partnership between Great Outdoors Colorado and Colorado Parks and Wildlife. The county and town match would be $83,150 – or $41,575 each.
If the application is accepted, the funds received would pay for most of the remaining engineering costs for this first phase, according to Alvarez. So far, Mancos has spent $20,000 in cash on the project since 2015.
In a letter of support for the application, Mayor Queenie Barz wrote, “The Paths to Mesa Verde will significantly improve the nonmotorized access to public lands riding areas, and is essential for meeting the type of holistic bicycling experience many recreational tourists are looking for. The proposed pathway will benefit local residents and visitors alike by providing a safer off highway route for accessing Mesa Verde and other BLM recreational areas.”
Trustees approved a cooperative agreement between the Mancos Marshal’s Office and the Montezuma County Department of Social Services.The agreement is required by the state, and details the exact roles of each agency in cases of child abuse and neglect.