Nothing definite has been decided about the Montezuma County lodgers tax allocations, but it appears Mancos is doing its fair share of bringing in tourism dollars.
Earlier this year, the Montezuma County Lodgers Tax Committee raised the possibility of cutting lodgers tax funds from the Mancos and Dolores chambers of commerce, expressing the concern that the chambers are not using the money for strictly tourism purposes, as is intended.
The chambers have pushed back, though, and on Saturday morning the county commissioners met with Mancos Town Board members to talk over the lodgers tax use and funding of the chamber.
All three commissioners attended, along with County Administrator Shak Powers. On the Mancos side, Mayor Queenie Barz, Trustees Brent McWhirter and Fred Brooks, and Town Administrator Heather Alvarez were present.
The Lodgers Tax Committee is tasked with distributing funds from a 1.9% lodgers tax levied on hotel room rates throughout the county. The tax raises on average about $150,000 annually, with funds distributed to local chambers of commerce and tourism organizations through a grant-application process.
Lodgers tax money is supposed to support local tourism efforts. This year, the Mancos Valley Chamber of Commerce received around $29,000, according to Maggie Goodell, director of the chamber and Visitor Center.
But in May, the tax committee announced that it was planning to significantly reduce funding from both the Mancos and Dolores chambers, starting in 2020. The committee members believed that the tax dollars were being used for their operational budget rather than direct tourism purposes.
Both the Mancos and Dolores chambers have said that should they lose these funds, their visitor centers could face closure.
At Saturday’s meeting, Alvarez said that the Mancos Visitor Center plays a valuable role in promoting tourism. She pointed to the fact that sales tax revenue increased from $300,000 to $800,000 between 2012 and 2018, while the number of business licenses only went up from 85 to 110 – an indication that tourism was the driving force behind the tax revenue increase, she said.
“I do feel that our Visitor Center is doing their job,” she said.
She added that the town of Mancos would be willing to fund operating expenses for the Visitor Center if need be.
The commissioners said that nothing has been set in stone yet, but that they want to know more details about how lodgers tax funds are being used, and want to ensure the money is not being used to operate the chamber.
“The idea is for that lodging tax money to go strictly to tourism, events, and promotion for tourism,” said Commissioner Keenan Ertel. “Not to fund a secretary, administrator, or a chamber of commerce staffing presence.”
According to Alvarez, Goodell is the only paid staff member for the chamber, but she’s only part-time.
“Without the lodgers tax and without the town funding that, the Visitor Center would close, but the chamber is self-sustainable with their dues,” Alvarez said.
The commissioners added too that it appears Mancos is bringing in a good portion of lodgers tax funds. According to County Administrator Shak Powers, in the previous quarter, the lodgers tax generated a total of $58,659. Of this total, 57% came from Mancos, 13% from Dolores, and 30% from Cortez.
Cortez has its own lodgers tax, but some of the county lodgers tax revenue came from unincorporated parts of Montezuma County that still have an 81321 ZIP code, which accounts for the 30% number, Powers said.
“Mancos is obviously a big generator of the lodgers tax in Montezuma County,” Ertel said. He added that the communities that generate the monies should have funds redistributed back to them.
Moving forward, Alvarez said that perhaps they should tweak their grant applications, to explain more of what the chamber does.
The county is still seeking applicants for two vacancies on the Lodgers Tax Committee. The terms last for three years, and committee members should be involved in the tourism industry – preference will be given to those in the lodging industry.
Those interested in applying should submit a letter of interest to Montezuma County Administration, 109 W. Main St., Room 260, Cortez, CO 81321. The deadline to apply is 4 p.m. Friday, Sept. 13.