Sedona AZ (June 9, 2013) – Two things, it has been said, are certain: death and taxes. Here is Oz, taxes are certain, however we have some control over what those taxes are. Many long time residents remember when there was no bed tax and going back even further, probably can’t remember a city sales tax, either. Those were the good old days, when there was only one stop light in town, roundabouts were unheard of, the Golden Goose was alive and well and the the red rocks looked exactly as they do today. Some things never change. Do you remember the Golden Goose?
Now we’ve put Sedona on the map and set our course: don’t diversify our golden goose economy and keep those eggs in one basket. Sounded good at the candidate forum at Los Abrigados in 2012, and look where it got us: we are totally dependent on tourism for everything: street maintenance, flood control, city staff and keeping the property tax genie in the bottle. The banking crash put everything and everybody into a squeeze, including our Golden Goose. And now that Golden Goose isn’t so golden. With tourism slumping, the idea is to promote Sedona so more geese will flock to Oz. But, we must let the tourists of the world know everything is just ducky in Oz, and that costs money. The city is using every cent it can grab to keep the ship afloat so the Goose has somewhere to land. This includes fees where none ever existed, some are on the table for consideration, and some haven’t been discovered. The smell of money is very inviting. The Sedona Chamber, guided by the affable Jennifer Wesselhoff, is struggling to keep the image of Golden Goosery in front of all those tourists who, they themselves, don’t have the bucks they used to have to keep the Goose in feathers. The chamber is caught in the middle of we-need-to-promote-the-Goose-with-less-money. Oz, with floundering name recognition, has sunk to number 13, between Los Angeles and Houston in popular places to visit, according to TripAdvisor. Under the chamber umbrella and also caught in the middle, is the Sedona Lodging council which needs more money to promote its product and keep their rooms full. And they’re competing with name brand resorts who are located just outside Oz, with no bed tax and no city sales tax.
Residents who moved here are happy with the prospect of fewer visitors, and are licking their chops to not support additional sales taxes and bed taxes. Only thing is they’re cutting off their noses to spite their faces. Sales taxes and bed taxes are what bring them infrastructe and city maintenance, sidewalks, flood control measures, a sewer plant that can host folks who watch those Golden Geese, and street sweeping.
Starve the chamber and soon you’ll be looking at a property tax. Meanwhile, the Golden Goose heads south where it finds a more appreciative climate.
According to the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis’s 2012 Annual Report released May 30th:
“Aggregate household net-worth data aren’t adjusted for inflation, population growth or the nature of the wealth.”
“A lot of the recovery in net worth has been tied to the stock market, thus is concentrated in holdings of wealthy families.”
“Considering the uneven recovery of wealth across households, a conclusion that the financial damage of the crisis and recession largely has been repaired is not justified.”
Additionally, it’s no surprise the St. Louis Fed’s analysts found Americans have recovered only 45% of the money they lost during the recession. The stock and bond markets are high because the Federal Reserve System keeps pursuing quantitative easing and printing dollars. The U.S. still employs more than 2.4 million fewer people than when the recession began, with millions of working-age Americans having left the labor force due to lack of jobs. The buying power of the dollar has eroded considerably. And housing would still be in the doldrums without the influx of billions from large Wall Street investment firms.
It is troubling to read the “Dear Mayor and City Council” form letter proposing “to increase the City sales tax by .5% and to increase the bed tax by .5%,” for which the Lodging Council, dissolved by the AZ Corporation Commission in 2011, is busy gathering signatures in support from businesses and their employees. Replacing a regressive, temporary 1% state sales tax by a permanent .5% City sales tax and claiming “the timing is right and the current situation is a win-win scenario” is ludicrous. A permanent regressive sales tax will only serve to prolong the recession’s damage to Sedona’s economy, perhaps even worsen it.
Unfortunately, business failures in Sedona are continuing and vacancies are everywhere. Recently we have seen the Dollar Store, Angel’s, Bodacious Burgers, Studio Live and the flower shop go out of business. Small business under siege and going broke, low wages, unemployment, dollar erosion, a decrease in savings of seniors on fixed incomes and the poor, the population drop to approximately 10,000, sequestration, and Sedona’s cost of living — 26.30% higher than the U.S. average — are all signs Sedona needs a sales tax decrease.
60% of us residents already have a property tax in the form of wastewater fees, whose surplus is about to be diminished by shifting some of it into the General Fund. We don’t need an increased bed or sales tax. We need a fiscally responsible City Council that will spend money on the absolutely necessary capital projects like the storm drainage. The Golden Goose will be here so long as the Council and Chamber don’t overdevelop the city and transform Sedona into a tacky tourist town…which it seems to be doing. Less greed from the Chamber, a more responsible and smaller city government and less growth to preserve the beauty and “small town character” of Sedona are the keys to preserving the Golden Goose…not more taxes, most of which will be funnelled to the Chamber.
“[Sedona] with floundering name recognition, has sunk to number 13, between Los Angeles and Houston.”
And this is sinking? EVERY city above #13 is a major tourist attraction with 25 times or more our population. Think New York, Boston, Orlando, Washington DC, etc. (
) I don’t pretend to know what the “right” level of taxation might be or how many tourists are too many or too few, but a ranking half way between New York City and Houston is surely an anti-histamine boon to Sedona’s recognition!
You beat me to it. Now I don’t have to write a comment. Kudos to you!
June 10, 2013
It is important for every resident in Sedona, and the watershed community, to understand not only how much time and effort is put into the marketing efforts aimed at sustainable tourism, but also how much support is needed from an organization like OCWC in order to help deal with the environmental impact of 3 million plus visitors. It is a team effort that requires adequate funding for each member.
The United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) defines sustainable tourism as: “Tourism that takes full account of its current and future economic, social and environmental impacts, addressing the needs of visitors, the industry, the environment and host communities.”
Sustainable tourism development requires the informed participation of all relevant stakeholders, as well as strong political leadership to ensure wide participation and consensus building. Achieving sustainable tourism is a continuous process and it requires constant monitoring of impacts, introducing the necessary preventive and/or corrective measures whenever necessary.
Sustainable tourism should also make optimal use of environmental resources that constitute a key element in tourism development, maintaining essential ecological processes and helping to conserve natural heritage and biodiversity.
Those on the front line of tourism development are working to the max in order to maintain the flow of visitors to the Sedona area. The concern is not just the numbers of people but the amount of discretionary income they bring with them to spend. During recessionary times, people tend to look but not spend, or not spend as much. Marketing services and products is therefore as extremely important as the initial effort to promote the area’s attractions. Increased visitor numbers also results in an increase in the environmental impact, and budgets need to be adjusted to support these costs, too.
Sustainable tourism efforts are comprehensive and take time and funding, but you have to spend money to make money. With a limited budget, the Chamber of Commerce, Tourism Bureau and others are losing ground against states and cities elsewhere that see the value of the tourism investment and fund much larger budgets.
This economy is showing signs across the board of turning around. Consumer confidence is rising. Interest in the Sedona – Oak Creek Canyon area is still high. It may take some time before discretionary income levels reach pre-recession times, but NOW is the time to INCREASE marketing efforts and help build up revenues from sales taxes etc. It’s a win-win for every Sedona citizen and a time for bold support of tourism and environmental professionals. It’s also a time for working together.
According to the Budget Oversight Chairman, “Residents are paying the largest percentage of the bills here when you add in sewer fees.” Our sewer fees are going up next month, and the SFD is increasing the mil rate. More taxes are the last thing residents need.
Many tourist cities provide NO financial support to their Chambers of Commerce.
Why are only 1/3 of the businesses in Sedona members of the Chamber of Commerce? The Sedona Chamber of Commerce ought to get serious about holding more fundraisers and increasing membership numbers, not pursue taxpayer handouts.
BTW, I see the Chamber has been running a “Travel to Ireland with the Sedona Chamber of Commerce” ad in KUDOS lately. Hmmm!