By Jean Jenks, Sedona Resident
(September 16, 2013)
To the Members of the Sedona City Council:
Before giving more taxpayer money to the Chamber, how about fixing our neglected drainage problems, the majority having resulted from projects approved by City Hall over the years? Whatever happened to ensuring City health, safety and welfare in a timely manner, I wonder?
Unfortunately, the “Sedona Visitor Industry, New Resource Concepts” report commissioned by the Sedona Lodging Council compares apples to oranges. It is not relevant to Sedona. In fact, huge budgets, many more people, and much larger geographic areas financially support each and every destination covered in this report to the Lodging Council.
As to the report’s inapplicable selections, instead of the very expensive California destinations of Santa Barbara and Napa Valley, or the New Mexico state capitol of Santa Fe, let’s look at the data for the destination in our own state–Scottsdale, Arizona. Unlike small Sedona, Scottsdale is the 6th largest city in Arizona. It encompasses 184.5 square miles, with an estimated 217,965 residents. The most recent financial information is for FY 2013: Total Adopted Budget = $1,285 MILLION, General Fund = $699.8 MILLION. Why, the City of Sedona’s annual budget is a miniscule 1/35th the total for Scottsdale’s previous year!! I urge you to NOT allocate 55%, or any other specific percentage of annual bed tax revenues, to destination marketing.
An increase in the bed tax is not justified, either. It would increase Sedona’s disadvantage over local competitors outside the City limits. What is needed is keeping this fiscal year’s $580,000 allocation to the Chamber of Commerce as is, and then exercising due diligence and putting this matter out to competitive bidding for next year.
By the way, looking at the “City of Sedona June 2013 Financial Report,” I see for the first six months of 2013 that January through May are ALL in the RED. This certainly is not good news.
P.S. Jennifer Wesselhoff, CEO of the Chamber of Commerce, is going after a cool $1 million (55% of annual bed tax receipts) and a contract from the City of Sedona. The proposed Ordinance is being cast in concrete tonight, with the final Council vote set for Oct. 8th.
Although the City’s monthly bed tax collections for Jan through May of 2013 are all in the red when compared to the same months of 2012, the City Council will be throwing away significantly more scarce taxpayer funds on tourism. Selecting another vendor to replace the regional Chamber of Commerce was not a consideration.
All Councilmembers agreed to raise bed taxes from 3% to 3.5%, allocating the increase to the Chamber effective next Jan 1st. Vice Mayor Mark DiNunzio moved and Mayor Adams seconded a successful motion to allocate 50% of total bed tax revenues to the Chamber for destination marketing, effective July 1st. This amounts to approximately $1 million annually. There was no real concern about ensuring the City reap economic benefits proportionate to this annual subsidy. As far as ensuring increased hotel occupancy rates in future years, the Lodging Council dictated the Council must trust, but not verify.
Biased Councilman Ward made the specious claim that residents do not pay “a nickel” in bed or sales taxes. And I had to press the mute button on the TV remote when Jessica Williamson began her 15 minute rant.
State law requires a 60-day waiting period from last July 31st when the Council initially decided to pursue a .5% bed tax increase. Although it appears cast in concrete, the final Council vote on the Ordinance will be taken during its Oct 8th meeting.
I would like to thank the City Council for last’s night vote to increase the Bed Tax by $.05 and to fund the Sedona Chamber of Commerce. We all need to remember that an estimate of over 8,000 jobs are supported by tourism in the Verde Valley, Sedona and surrounding areas. I praise the Council for taking the stand in support or tourism, the Chamber, and investing in the future of Sedona.
Steve Segner, President
Sedona Loading Council
As long as the council requires zero accountability for the money the Chamber spends you are just raising the costs for people who visit this city. The Chamber is acting like another government agency. Good thing real business does not run that way.
The lodging council will be very very involved in the marketing plan, we will be meeting for the next several months to put together a plan that will put more heads in beds, mid week.
Trust us we will be working with the chamber to get the best plan in place.
President Sedona lodging Council
It is our intent to require a marketing plan from the chamber that will include tracking and measurement models.
do you have suggestions on models that have worked for you?
As if voting one week ago to dole out an estimated $1.075 million in pork to the Chamber of Commerce with no assurance the funds wouldn’t be spent on lodgings outside the City limits such as the Enchantment Resort and the Hilton were not enough, now we have an egregious condemnation matter on this coming Tuesday’s Council agenda. I.e., the Old Ranger Station Property on Brewer Road.
According to Mayor Adams, “The City’s finances are in good shape.” Whoa!! The Council is considering either a City Property Tax secured by GO-Bonds or Special Improvement Districts so as to fund $20.29 million in drainage projects.
In addition to terminating frivolous non-WW capital projects from its wish list, development impact fees restricted for parkland acquisition must be reassigned by Council vote for critical infrastructure needs such as streets, drainage and sewer.