BID considers who will pay to promote town |

BID considers who will pay to promote town

Susan Wood

The price tag of tourism took center stage Wednesday for an eager citizen board.

South Lake Tahoe’s newly formed business improvement district board scrutinized a city consultant’s proposal which gauged which types of companies should pay to promote the town.

At issue is to what extent certain businesses are affected by tourism marketing. By the time it’s through with recommendations, the board expects some protest.

The biggest company with its home base in Nevada has agreed to the maximum rate.

Blaise Carrig, Heavenly Mountain Resort Chief Operating Officer – who served on the pre-board advisory committee as chairman – said his Nevada-headquartered ski area with property in California would kick in the maximum rate of $3,000 a year. As the formula now stands, most businesses would pay $30.

Robert Rosenthaul of Park City, Utah, drafted a categorized list of assessments in which city companies would be charged per $1,000 in gross receipts beyond their annual business license fee. The city and South Lake Tahoe Chamber of Commerce paid $20,000 for the consultant. There’s limited access to the report as companies’ gross receipts are confidential.

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After moving the election of the board secretary to next Wednesday’s session, the board critiqued the proposal.

“I think we as a group need to address these categories. (The proposal) seemed random,” board member Patrick Martin said.

Time is money

Everything is up for grabs – except whatever suggested rate increases would require a change in the city’s resolution, new mailing and more time if it went into effect this year. It must have the proposal to the city by June.

In the current proposal, commercial boat rentals were assessed at 25 cents.

“These should be higher,” Chairwoman Julie Threewit said to a consensus of nods. The board agreed they should pay 65 cents.

On the other end of the scale, the group believed having a retailer selling guns pay a higher rate – 60 cents per $1,000 in receipts – appeared unfair.

“Who’s going to come to Tahoe to buy a gun?” board member Victor Babbitt blurted out.

The group plans to establish a process by which a business can protest its category.

Getting beyond the past

Fairness and equity are the driving principles of the board. Many members say the overall attitude among the 4,600 businesses in town has been negative toward the process of absorbing a new tax.

“For some, the money’s not the issue. It’s the principle. There’s still animosity out there,” Martin said.

The two-hour process sparked dialogue about how business operates here. As such, the board advised termite and pest controlers would pay 48 cents – up from the consultant’s 25-cent formula.

“Every restaurant in town has to pay the bug man to come in,” Missy Springer said, illustrating the tie-in to tourism.

After City Attorney Catherine DiCamillo returns with answers on some categories, the full recommendation will be voted on.

The money – estimated at about $250,000 from June 2005-06 – would pay for efforts to market the city. The original intent was to replace a loss of subsidies to the local government’s marketing arms – the chamber and Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority. The chamber’s subsidy from the city was $101,000 in the 2004-05 year – at least $30,000 less than the prior year. The LTVA received $225,000 this year. Both of the agency’s executive directors Duane Wallace and Patrick Kaler attended the meeting.

After October 2006, lodging establishments have agreed in spirit to continue collecting $1.50 per room, per night from their guests as their contributions to BID coffers. That’s the voter-approved rate under Measure Z, which expires at that time.