Residents speak out on proposed ordinance changeDickinson Convention and Visitors Bureau board members, bar owners and hotel managers were among the people who came out Monday night to state their opinions regarding proposed change to the way the city’s hospitality tax is allocated to the city CVB.
By: Beth Wischmeyer, The Dickinson Press
Dickinson Convention and Visitors Bureau board members, bar owners and hotel managers were among the people who came out Monday night to state their opinions regarding proposed change to the way the city’s hospitality tax is allocated to the city CVB.
At a commission meeting last month, commissioners voted on a first reading of an amended ordinance which would eliminate a set amount of funding from the city to the CVB.
The CVB currently receives funding from two arenas, the hospitality tax and all funds from the lodging/occupancy tax, which is 2 percent.
The current ordinance allots that not less than 20 percent of the 1-percent hospitality tax be given to the CVB.
If the amended ordinance is passed, the amount allotted to the CVB would be up to the commission’s discretion during their annual budgeting process and the commission would no longer be required to give 20 percent of the hospitality tax each year.
Dennis Johnson, city commission president, said in an earlier commission meeting that he feels the occupancy tax is generating quite a bit of money because of Dickinson’s strong economy. If the occupancy tax declined, Johnson said the commission could increase the amount of the hospitality tax to accommodate.
A hearing, which was opened at the last meeting of the commission, was continued Monday night, giving the public another opportunity to make their feelings on the proposed change known.
“What we’d like to do is keep it consistent if it’s at the not less than the 20 percent than if the city would continue to grow, the CVB would grow,” said Terri Thiel, executive director of the Dickinson CVB. “We want to keep it so it isn’t political.”
Dickinson bar owner Bernie Marsh spoke out against the proposed amended ordinance.
“How we as North Dakotans feel if the federal government came to us and said, OK North Dakota, you have surplus, we need the money to use it elsewhere, if you need it come back and talk to us,” Marsh said.
“Also, how would the commission react if the rest of the state but Dickinson was doing well and our government came to us and said Dickinson has a surplus but the rest of the state is struggling, let us use your money if you need it come back and talk to us and see what we can do.”
Ellen Klym, office manager of at the Ukrainian Cultural Institute in Dickinson, said she urges the commission to vote no on the proposed ordinance change.
“The Ukrainian Cultural Institute would not be the business it is without the CVB and all of their resources,” Klym said.
Johnson said the proposed amendment has nothing to do with the ability and quality of the CVB.
“Dickinson has an excellent CVB staff and board,” Johnson said. “They are one of the best in the state if not the best.
“The fact that the CVB does an excellent job does not relieve the city commission of its responsibility to annually determine the amount of money allocated to visitor promotion and to do so in a deliberative and transparent manner.”
Johnson presented financial information compiled from the city’s numbers and his own projections.
Johnson said in CVB revenue, he projects in 2009 the group to have over $400,000 in revenue. Combined with expenses, he projects the group to have an over $95,000 surplus. In 2010, Johnson projects the group to have an over $117,000 surplus.
“The commission has a fiduciary responsibility to the tax payers to evaluate the current conditions and assess all the needs of the community,” Johnson said. “It is the commission’s responsibility to use its judgment and make an informed decision each year at a public meeting to determine the amount of money allocated to visitor’s promotion, rather than using a predetermined allocation formula.”
In other matters:
* Commission members approved a resolution regarding property tax exemption for builders and buyers. They selected option number four, which raises the home buyers exemption to the first $100,000 for two years and includes a two year exemption up to the first $100,000 for builders.
* The commission approved an appointment of Pat Giese to the Visitors Committee.
* The commission approved the sale of a 1973 American La France Engine to The Marmarth Fire Department for $1
The next city commission meeting is scheduled for 5:15 p.m., Nov. 6 at Dickinson City Hall.