By Nicole Barde

This month’s meeting was at the Comstock History Center and there were about 5 other “public” members there besides me. Happy to see them! The link to the entire meeting packet can be found HERE and agenda HERE.

There was a brief report from the Cemetery Foundation about their having been gifted with the property adjacent to the Catholic cemetery (Roy Mining Patent and part of the old Chinese dump) in memory of Stanley Lee.  The Foundation has plans to work the property into a lovely garden spot for cremated remains to be spread.

The Cemetery Gin, Public Relations  and Marketing reports were combined into one report. You can read it HERE.  Nothing new, just more social media activity numbers that look like every other report that RAD Strategies has presented over the last many months. No “there” there as far as I am concerned.

Liquid Blue gave the special event update. The Father Daughter Dance did much better than last year, almost twice the participation at about 320 people and many repeat participants.  There was  a net profit of about $1,000 as opposed to a loss of $2,000 last year. VCTC believes that this was due to more advertising on social media and that there was no competition from Reno with a similar event. Glad to see this….it’s a sweet event.

There was discussion about this week-ends Oyster Fry and the venue change from the Delta parking lot to the Bucket of Blood parking lot and C Street and then  the Chili on the Comstock budget was approved.

Groups coordinator Katie Demuth gave an update on Groups, Trade Shows and the Visitor Center. She reported that the Visitor Center did  brisk business this February compared to prior years. The “Devil Made Me Do It” saloon crawl helped push sales of  about t$1200 and Cemetery Gin was a big seller. She and Executive Director Deny Dotson reported that the Trade Show they attended in San Francisco in  February was a good one, and that the side display of Cemetery Gin garnered a lot of attention not just for the Gin but for Virginia City. Deny said that they also tacked on several Media visits to the event and that those were the most fruitful of all. He said that he could see just doing the Media Visits instead of the show itself in the future.

Last but not least came the financials. The Tourism Tax is down $30,450 compared to last year and is below the budget amounts. Deny voiced prior statements that there are a lot of variables involved with this number and that the County is talking to Taxation to determine if we are getting all that is due.  The Transient Lodging Tax is basically dead on to last year with revenues up and number of rooms down compared to last year.  Another “supplier” is off the market. The Cobb Mansion is closed and those rooms will no longer be available pending the sale of the property.

In reviewing the current years budget against actuals this month the VCTC is $106,630 OVER their approved budget. Approximately $53,000 is capital expenses and the Cemetery Gin project.  The General Fund in now down to $286,109 (end of January) from $315,409 at the end of December. Deny did say that there are timing issues with some of the grants paying out on time and in receiving  the Cemetery Gin revenues . I suggested that they hand write these outstanding receivables onto the General Fund page so that a better picture of the drawdown is made known. Deny projects that after all is said and done that the General Fund will be up to $365,681 by the end of the current budget year I June.

Next up was the proposed 2016-2017 tentative budget.  The bottom line is that it was a DEFICIT budget that came in $28,600 OVER projected revenues. Deny projects that the general fund will be $347,081 at the end of that budget year.  Deny walked us thru all the various items in the budget. The Board asked a few clarifying questions, Lance commented about how wonderful RAD Strategies was and that he was contemplating bringing them onboard for some of his companies and that was basically the extent of Board comments. 

During Public Comment I asked the Board how they could approve a deficit budget. Someone mentioned that the Federal Government does it all the time. HA- HA!  ……YUK-YUK!!  When they stopped laughing I said that since they all owned businesses they know that when your revenues decrease you do a number of things. Looking to increase revenues is one of those things but it goes hand-in-hand with looking at decreasing your expenses. I said that I didn’t see any effort on VCTC’s part to reduce the expenses and so they continue to draw down and eat into the general fund. …. eventually there will be no more cushion.

I was told that that is the purpose of a “savings account”…to fund investment and to run a business. Board member Angelo Petrini said that there have been 11 closed businesses on C Street since the economic downturn and that now they have all come back. He also said that the VCTC has done a good job in getting people to V.C. and you need to fund that thru investment. I failed to mention at that time that since the economy has turned around that a rising tide lifts all boats so I would not attribute the C street resurgence to VCTC efforts alone. Additionally, they continue to say that they are not responsible for actual “business impact” that the merchants are.  Since they resist measuring any of the business impact of their efforts I would not give them credit for any improvement or the C street resurgence….but I digress.

 I asked about the $25,000 expense, which has no corresponding revenue, paid out for Hot August Nights. I was told that we pay that in order to be the start of the event and that the amount of advertising that it gets us is worth considerably more than the $25,000 paid out.  I ask…But how do we really KNOW that?

The fact is that the budget already contains $55,000 for direct advertising of various types AND $35,000 for RAD Strategies…the total advertising/promotion spending inclusive of the $25,000 Hot August Nights expense is $ 115,000 for advertising with no attempt to determine return on investment. The Ad Budget is 12.5% of expenses (exclusive of salaries) is that OK?….How does that percentage compare with other Tourism/Faire and Recreation Boards? If the Hot August Nights $25k expense gets us wider advertising then why not cut some of the other advertising to get the budget in line? I mean……………..these are the types of questions real businesses ask when looking at their budgets and trying to balance them!

The Board approved the VCTC deficit budget. It’s an election year…can’t wait to see the full County budget. If the Commissioners pass a deficit budget then I have to wonder just how “conservative” they really are.

Since it is not the Boards own personal business entity or their money that they are spending they seem comfortable in approving it assuming that the revenue will come in one day to cover the deficit. It has been said several times that Deny is working with County Comptroller Hugh Gallagher to see about increasing the revenue side of the equation. Well……in government that means only one thing to me……an increase or shifting of tax money. Somewhere, somehow, someone outside of government has to pay……I am waiting to see who will pay for this.

During public comment at the end of the meeting Mark Phillips got up to  say that the bathrooms at the entrance to the town “ are a cruel joke” because they are closed and asked why they have to be closed at all. He also mentioned that the directional  signs to the cemetery are still missing.

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