By Paul Boyce, Sedona Resident
(June 26, 2018)
In my 20 years as a full time resident, I’ve never seen so much anger currently directed at the Sedona City Council. The primary source of anger: the almost $8 million the city has given to the Sedona Chamber of Commerce over the past 5 years. On one side, residents feel short changed, wondering why the city didn’t instead funnel these funds into direct benefits for residents. Benefits such as more parks, sports programs and facilities, better funding for the humane society and library, arts and concert programs–the list goes on and on. It’s also obvious that many are angered by the recent huge increase in traffic in Sedona. On the other side, business interests defend the chamber handout, arguing that a vibrant hotel and tourist industry brings more jobs and amenities such as restaurants and shops.
Recently, I called the local area chambers to see how much they were being funded by their respective cities. I thought it might be interesting to see how Sedona stacks up. Here is what I found:
1) Greater Flagstaff Chamber: $0, receives no funding from the city
2) Williams: doesn’t have a chamber, but the city staffs a Visitor Center, which is budgeted at $284,337 annually
3) Jerome Chamber: the chamber treasurer estimated they will receive $20k in 2019
4) Prescott Chamber: $0, receives no funding from the city
5) Prescott Valley Chamber: the town of Prescott Valley contracts with the chamber for certain specific services, including a visitor center, approx $125,000 per year
6) Cottonwood Chamber: approx $200,000 per year
7) Greater Phoenix Chamber, the biggest chamber in the state: $0, receives no funding from the city of Phoenix
The numbers clearly show that Sedona is off the charts in terms of its handout. No other nearby chamber comes close to getting what the Sedona chamber gets. In 2018, the Sedona Chamber will receive $2.5 million from the city. Is this reasonable? Based on a comparison with nearby cities, to this resident it appears completely unreasonable. The anger toward city council is therefore quite understandable. Hopefully, this anger will be constructively channelled in the upcoming council election. We shall see.
The trouble is the City Gov really isn’t interested in listening to residents anymore. They think the more money coming in the better.
Paul, thanks for the research and information.
It has been a mystery to many that the Chamber is using city money to get into other activities other than what a Chamber normally does. Also they are not required by council to have an outside audit. Just an internally generated financial report. Fox in the henhouse.
Now they have started a breakfast club, with the city manager talking about the catastrophe of NO on Home Rule (but by law he cannot tell a voter how to vote on it), a City planner talking about Sedona In Motion, and Jennifer the head of the Chamber telling us how nice the Chamber is that they are not taking the full $2.5 million that is budgeted. Isn’t that generous.
I think people around the world know where Sedona is. I believe they are going to show up one way or another. The city is mandated to spend about $500K a year from the bed tax they collect, and that could easily be put out for bid to market HIGH END travelers.
The waste and cronyism is out of control. Let’s get back to core city functions, pay our cops what they deserve and stop creating fantasy positions like “sustainability” manager for a 6 figure package to do what nobody knows.
We have options, we have the details and we have given the citizens the opportunity to provide the city with the funds that will require a little austerity without taking away core city services.
Weekly Tuesday townhalls with Q and A from the public are available for all. For time and schedule go to http://www.arizonaliberty.us and click on Home Rule on the main menu.
Thanks, Mike, for mentioning there is certain mandated spending.
Perhaps Paul asked about each town’s Tourism Bureau or Marketing Division. He didn’t say. But what I hear, not only from the above essay but also all over the Net is “Chamber, Chamber, Chamber.”
The Sedona Chamber of Commerce manages the Tourism Bureau. Perhaps using the correct terminology will get more people to listen.
Also, I personally find it annoying that people keep going back years to get a giant $8 million total. Isn’t the current budget significant enough to talk about?
Marketing Sedona over the past 10 years has been hugely successful. Have we forgotten the real estate crash and number of local businesses closing? So a large push was warranted. Just when everyone thought they knew what they were doing, Governor Ducey opened a Pandora’s box of 1000 short-term rentals in town, not only putting those tourists’ cars on the road but also more miles from local employees forced to move out of the area when their rental unit was recommissioned.
Is it time to regroup? Absolutely! But it’s not time for exaggeration, misnomers and tossing the baby out with the bathwater.
We can fix this, People. And we don’t need an outcry from NIMBYs (not in my back yard; you will not fix traffic by using my neighborhood!). We need level-headed solutions–more than one. Overturning Home Rule in August is not the answer. Pass it, then look at long-term solutions.
The chamber doesn’t operate a real Tourism Bureau.
It is a trade name that they registered with the state. Not a legal Tourism Improvement District or TID.
The point of bringing up “”$8 million” to the Chamber over the past several years is that it should have NEVER started. There is a minimum required by the state that must be spent on destination marketing, but it does not have to go to a Chamber of Commerce. $8 MILLION buys a lot of capital projects. You think people around the world dont know where Sedona is?
The Chamber is swimming in so much extra cash they’re buying land with tax money. The majority of our “steller” council voted to NOT do an independent audit of Chamber books to see where TAX money is being spent.
Blaming Ducey for BnB, or VBRO when he didn’t write the legislation….not worth a comment (it is private property…)
I have not forgotten the real estate crash, not sure what that has to do with the Chamber spending money, we still have a bunch of empty storefronts. Store don’t stay open when people are buying g t shorts and ice cream cones.
If city would spend the minimal amount required on high end marketing maybe the day trippers or drive through to the Grand Canyon folks who don’t buy anything would continue up the road on I17 .
Michael, I did some research re: ORDINANCE NO. 2013-07. . The following are some facts regarding the city of Sedona’s .05% increase in transient lodging (hotel bed) tax increase approved by the city council in 2014 that was given to the Chamber for tourism marketing I thought you might be interested in hearing.
1) First: The city council of Sedona, Arizona voted to increase the transient lodging (bed) tax by 0.5%, from 3% to 3.5% which took effect on January 1, 2014. Approved Ordinance No. 2013-07 amended Section 8-447 of the Tax Code of the City of Sedona. Section 1 – Revenue generated by the increase will fund destination marketing and the promotion of tourism in Sedona, as well as operating costs for the Visitor’s Center Per A.R.S. § 9- 500.06, per Section C* — https://www.azleg.gov/viewdocument/?docName=https://www.azleg.gov/ars/9/00500-06.htm — the proceeds resulting from the 0.5% increase in the bed tax shall be devoted to the promotion of tourism.*
2) Second: After July 2, 2014, provisions of Sedona’s Bed Tax Increase Ordinance, Section 2 ) requires 55% of the increase in non-transient hotel lodging tax increase must be used for marketing and the promotion of tourism – SEE SEDONA ORDINANCE NO. 2013-07. Section 2 – Application of Increase in 2014 Bed Tax Increase Proceeds for Marketing and the Promotion of Tourism. What is interesting is that Sedona Ordinance, Section 2 states, “Future changes to this policy [Section 2] may be made by a simple majority vote of the Council without a need for further amendments to this Ordinance.”
* ARIZONA LAW: A.R.S. 9-500.06, SECTION C: Hospitality industry; discrimination prohibited; use of tax proceeds; exemption; definitions
SECTION C. On or after the effective date of this amendment to this section, if a city or town, by passing an ordinance or charter amendment by its governing council or by a public vote, establishes a discriminatory transaction privilege tax or increases its existing discriminatory transaction privilege tax on hospitality industry businesses greater than any increase imposed on other types of businesses in the city or town, the proceeds of the established discriminatory transaction privilege tax, except as provided in subsection D, and the proceeds of any increase above the existing discriminatory transaction privilege tax shall be used exclusively by the city or town for the promotion of tourism. For the purposes of this section a tax which is in effect on April 1, 1990 and is subsequently renewed by a majority of qualified electors voting at an election to approve the renewal is not considered a tax increase.
D. For the purposes of subsection C, expenditures by a city or town for the promotion of tourism include:
1. Direct expenditures by the city or town to promote tourism, including but not limited to sporting events or cultural exhibits.
2. Contracts between the city or town and nonprofit organizations or associations for the promotion of tourism by the nonprofit organization or association.
3. Expenditures by the city or town to develop, improve or operate tourism related attractions or facilities or to assist in the planning and promotion of such attractions and facilities.
E. If a city or town has not imposed a discriminatory transaction privilege tax up to a two per cent tax level on hospitality industry businesses as of April 1, 1990 and thereafter imposes or increases such a discriminatory transaction privilege tax, the first two percentage rate portion of the discriminatory transaction privilege tax is not subject to the provisions of subsection C.
F. The collection by a city or town of a fee or tax prohibited by this section shall be void and unlawful. For a five year period following the unlawful collection of the fee, the city or town shall reimburse the hospitality business for any reasonable expense incurred in collecting from the city or town any fees or tax unlawfully collected.
G. For the purposes of this section:
1. “Discriminatory transaction privilege tax” means any transaction privilege tax rate imposed by a city or town on hospitality industry businesses that is above the transaction privilege tax rate imposed by a city or town equally on all businesses subject to a transaction privilege tax.
I’d like to just share some general information because I work with two of these cities. Williams had a Chamber of Commerce for years and the city funded it to help with tourism promotion/destination marketing. The chamber closed its doors after the city pulled funding and outsourced marketing to an independent firm. The firm works to promote Williams as a destination in partnership with the visitor center.
The city of Prescott has a Chamber of Commerce and it works only as that. It’s self-sufficient and manages based on membership dues. The city of Prescott has its own tourism office and operates based on bed tax numbers.
Flagstaff has a Convention & Visitors Bureau which is tied to the city of Flagstaff and bed tax revenues. The Chamber is separate and self sufficient.
Neither of these locations has a Chamber of Commerce & Tourism Bureau comparable to Sedona’s. Sedona is a unique location and the setup is different. It also manages more visitors.
I just think we need to have some clarification and maybe a little additional information when comparing destinations/cities. If anyone has any questions feel free to email me: email@example.com.
Why is Kadar, who doesn’t even live here in Sedona, trying to control how we in Sedona spend our money? Americans for Prosperity = Koch Brothers. That’s how they operate. If you don’t want the Koch Brothers here, show up and let them know
Why is it that the” T” party from the village, want to lower the amount that Sedona City council can spend on public services for it’s citizens? Look at the sampling of cities with PBA for 5 other cities and you will notice the PBA number is well above the city budgets!
He knows Home Rule will pass and now trying for a state mandated PBA. to stop sedona goverment
Cottonwood Budget $66.5m PBA $74.1m
Page Budget $48.m PBA $54.m
Peroia Budget $590.m PBA $855.
Surprise Budget $275.8m PBA $1.014Billion
Wickenburg Budget $33.2m PBA $41.6m
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Is this what you want for Sedona ,,, say NO
Mr Kadar of the VOC.
Residents in the Village of Oak Creek are concerned with the Sedona election because they get stuck in the traffic the Sedona Chamber’s advertising inside Arizona generates.
Remember, due primarily to the Chamber in Arizona advertising, over 50% of the cars entering Sedona don’t stop in Sedona.
Segner, being part of the Chamber, is always looking for a diversion from a problem a mindless city council and a greedy chamber generated.
Vote No on Home Rule, cut off the City’s chamber funding.
Is the City Manager indeed talking about “the catastrophe of NO on Home Rule” at the breakfast club? According to state law (ARS 9-500.14), a city or town is prohibited from using its resources or personnel to influence elections.
With regard to steve Segner who does not even live in Sedona, City spending and non-inclusive government are out of control. I feel a $36M PBA is quite okay.
Thank you so much @SteveSegner for assisting us in making a voting decision on Home Rule. Because we are already assessed via property taxes to the county for the Public Library in Sedona (established prior to Sedona incorporation) we resent double taxation by the City of Sedona so have no problem if that is dropped due to elimination of Home Rule.
And as for city financed activities accommodated by funding from Parks & Recreation, if there’s a demand for those events there’s no reason for them to be discontinued. Community efforts, not mandated, for years provided the same quality of activities (if not better) as organizers provided fund-raisers and other events to keep them afloat. That policy also applies to other non-profits that truly believe in their causes. They WILL find methods to survive without city revenue.
Then to use your input directly, you included the following which incorporated City of Sedona has no business contributing money or in-kind services to:
• Resource Officer at the Sedona Red Rock High School for student safety
• Artist in the Classroom program for students in Sedona
The Sedona High School belongs to the Sedona Oak Creek Unified School DISTRICT and is NOT under the jurisdiction of City of Sedona.
Likewise, if voting NO on Home Rule will eliminate the overindulged regional chamber of commerce from entering into absurd contracts with incorporated Sedona, we can think of no better reason for voting NO on Home Rule. And we also resent the city paying thousands for the operation of the Chamber of Commerce Visitor Center and then making false claims it is the “official” Visitors Center for City of Sedona. That, Sir, is blatant misrepresentation.
Bottom line: We will vote NO ON HOME RULE but extend our gratitude to you for your assistance in reassuring us we made the appropriate decision.
My reply is to Spence and Evelyn and funding to help,out our local schools. The city and the school district are both here to help our citizens and yes, young people are citizens. We are an art town and the artist in the classroom brings artist in to help kids. The community pool is owned by the school district but operated by the city. The police department helps the schools by having another friendly face on campus and provide a chance for a pleasant interaction between the police and students
Spence and Evelyn says:
You really want a city that need to close it’s parks, and not pave roads, refuses to support meals on wheels ? Really do you think people will move to a town like that, one of the reason Sedona Real estate is so high is because it is a great town to live in and with NO city tax…. the city is flush with money and it should be used for public services. Now with Sedona In motion we can start to work on traffic and all thanks to our visitors.
You really think Sedona is better off with 1/2 that tax monies just put away and not used? Sedona sits on two state Hwy’s and you want traffic to go down? really?
Sun City is you city all old people, no kids, and only a huge HOA fee to pay go for it but don’t make Sedona you sun city . in 2008 sedona spent 35,000,00 last year it spent 34,000,000 10 years and it dropped…. what is wrong!
for more information on home rule go to azelections.com
steve Segner says:
in 2008 sedona spent 35,000,000 last year it spent 34,000,000 10 years and it dropped….what is wrong!
What is wrong is steve Segner. According to the City’s records, last year (FY 2017-2018) it spent $39,640,263 (not 34,000,000). In 2008 the City had 118 Full-time Equivalent Employees. Last year it had 142.
No not budget but actual, got the number from the city 35,014,062
in 2008 the city went into full lock down because of the recession.
Now the city is playing catch up and bringing on people to help with all the new projects. They need trained engineers to oversee large projects, and the city has been using outside firms previously. More staff will save money because they will not have to hire consultants.
Steve Segner, who doesn’t even live in Sedona, is wrong again. The Schedule E the City filed with the State of Arizona lists Actual Expenditures/Expenses 2018 as $39,640,263.
The City is not playing catch up. Hotel projects/more traffic planned — Marriott Residence Inn (88 rooms); The Village at Saddlerock Crossing aka Oxford Hotel (126 rooms); Ambiente (40 rooms). Also coming down the pike: Community Focus Areas (CFAs).
Support for 5 of 9 GOVERNANCE ratings in the NCS “Sedona, AZ Community Livability Report 2017” lagged behind the national average as follows:
Overall direction, 31%
Confidence in City government, 35%
Acting in the best interest of Sedona, 34%
Being honest, 40%
Treating all residents fairly, 42%
Actual Expenditures/Expenses 2018 as $39,640,263. and in 2008 $35,014,062 that is not even a 2% growth over 8 years, now is the time to stop saving and spend and fix the roads. Jean answer this
Do you really think Sedona will stop growing,
Do really go you think less people will use 89a and 179 to get to and from Flagstaff and the Grand Canyon?
Do you think the house lots will not be built on or the commercial property on 89a will not be developed?
Do you really think not fixing roads and re building the Y will stop people from coming?
Better idea lets use the bed tax money and chamber to help “manage” visitors lets use the advertising money to say” Beat the heat and weekend traffic and come to Sedona mid week”
Every city in America would love to have Sedona growth, lets manage it not try to kill it.
P.S the 1000 new places to stay in Sedona and the traffic is thanks to sSB-1350 and Arizona governor not the chamber …. It will not stop
Jean it must be killing you that Sedona is doing so well after years of you saying the sky is falling …… fixing things cost money fixing things now is cheeper the fixing them later. Sedona has the funds because we invested in our product.