By Nicole Barde

First let me apologize for not having reported on the last Commission meeting, May 17th and the last VCTC meeting, May 19th. I received a phone call to go back to California immediately to be with my mother before she passed on and so I was gone for that week. Things are all taken care of at this point. Thanks for the kind words of condolence.

This month’s VCTC meeting was held at the Historic Fourth Ward School and you can find the agenda for this meeting HERE and the audio HERE.

VCTC Executive Director Deny Dotson began by reviewing the financials. The Tourism Tax is at $242,940 for the year as of the end of March 2016 which is $17,886 behind last year’s March number. Deny expects that the numbers will even out by the ending month of June report.

The Transient Lodging Tax is at $147,365 for the month ending April 2016 which is $7,556 better than last year’s April number. Both rooms and dollars are up over last year. The thing to remember about these numbers is that there a lag time of 2-3 months.

Deny then reviewed the current Fiscal Year Budget. Revenues are at $967,734 and $86,431 less than projected budget. Revenues are down overall. The Expenses came in at about $1.074 million against a projected budget of $1.096 and under by $22k. Expenses exceed revenues by about $100k and Deny feels that this will even out in the next month or so.

The VCTC General Fund is at around $285k and with the outstanding revenues could go up to $356,733.

This was the end of Deny’s report. At this point I’d like to shift from THIS meeting to the PRIOR VCTC meeting of May 19th. Although I did not attend that meeting I did listen to the audio of the meeting. There were several things said about new sources of revenues at that meeting that bear repeating here. You can listen to the last meeting HERE.

When Deny reviewed the financials and the approved 2016/2017 deficit budget at the May 19th meeting there was a bit of discussion about the general decrease in overall revenues to the VCTC. Since the VCTC relies heavily on the tourism tax, the transient lodging tax and various licenses including gaming and since those revenues are variable they don’t provide for the stability that the VCTC needs in order to continue to operate going forward.

County Comptroller Hugh Gallagher spoke about trying to provide revenue sustainability for the VCTC since the majority of VCTC revenue fluctuates from year to year and given the potential for a leveling out ( or decline) of the economy the tourism tax in particular will be decreasing. Hugh spoke of looking into a number of options to provide the VCTC with more revenue since he believed that the expense side of the budget wasn’t the problem but that the VCTC had a revenue problem. One of the options he spoke about is the possibility of creating a special assessment district in VC so that all VC merchants, business owners, and building owners have “skin in the game”. By “skin in the game” he means that VC merchants and owners will need to financially support the VCTC directly and actively since the merchants benefit from VCTC’s efforts to promote VC. He mentioned having a “workshop” to discuss this.

The methodology of how to determine the amount that each merchant or business owner will pay hasn’t been determined yet but it could be based on square footage or frontage or revenue or other elements as yet to be determined.

County Commissioner and VCTC Board member Lance Gilman commented that they would need to be careful and look to see what the overall profitability of merchants has been since this assessment would affect that profitability. He said that if there are merchants that are not or are barely profitable it would hurt business. He noted that even with his own “C” street business they are in the red each month. VCTC Board member Scott Jolcover concurred and stated that the Gold Hill Hotel netted only $97 (yes, ninety-seven dollars) last year.

VCTC Board member Ron Gallagher commented that as he and his wife travel to other towns and cities that there is a combination of merchant associations and chambers that shoulder the cost and financial burden of the promotional activities for their towns. He said that VC merchants have had no interest in participating in ether a merchants association or chamber and make no efforts at marketing their individual properties or VC and yet they benefit from the VCTC’s efforts.

VCTC Board member Angelo Petrini concurred and stated that Deny and the VCTC have done a tremendous job of promotion and events. He says that VC is more prosperous now than ever due to the events bringing people into VC, that we are known and being talked about in other places.

OK……If any of you merchants out there have any interest in impacting how this decision is made I think you need to start to attend the VCTC meetings NOW. I think you may want to make your feelings known as to the value that VCTC brings to you and your business and what you think that value is worth.

A side note about taxes………..there is talk and some action at the state legislature about removing the cap on our property taxes, the state needs more money. There is talk and action on increasing the gas tax in each county, the counties need more money. There is talk of assessing VC merchants so that VCTC can get more money. Three data points make a trend…………..pucker up….we’re about to get taxed some more. If you don’t care fine…stay quiet. If you do care….then get active!

Now back to the June 9th meeting.

Next on the agenda was the blah, blah of the Marketing updates. Read it for yourself it’s the same as always. What was interesting to me were Angelo’s comments. Angelo is a meat and potatoes kind of guy. These updates are more a form of an eggless vapor soufflé and not very satisfying. So after Deny’s presentation Angelo asked “you show us all this stuff but is the marketing increasing visitation….how many people visit each month/year?” In essence “where’s the beef?”

Deny looked forlorn since I think he is tired of answering this question every time I ask it but told Angelo that it isn’t really possible to do that kind of count since there is no accurate or consistent way to measure it and then he went into the many “why it can’t be done” reasons.

I made the statement that although there isn’t an exact way to do it that you CAN do an approximation based on some correlating indicators from other organizations. The Fourth Ward School Executive Director said that they track visitation and donations and both have been up.

I said that the VCTC can extrapolate visitation trends over time by looking at “proxies “ such as the visitation numbers at the museums, at the Liquid Blue pre-sales, the VCTC visitor center counts and revenues. I noted that the Silverland hotel does track these numbers and has been for quite some time. Later in the meeting Lance said that his restaurant tracks lunch and dinner business by revenue and by local and visitor patrons. He suggested that maybe if a couple of the other restaurants used the same method that we would be able to track it that way. A year over year comparison, while not exact, would give trend data.

Maybe now Deny will listen and do something to quantify the marketing activities and expenses…I’m not the only one asking anymore.

Next up was the Special Eventsupdates.

The 4th of July Revenues and Expenses look to be on track…expenses (~$27k) are about $3k over revenues (~ $24k)

Chili on the Comstock seems to have been the best one yet as far as the numbers are concerned. Past years have been in the red and this year was firmly in the black! Liquid Blue did some expense cutting, increased the ticket prices slightly, added more and better vendors.

The Taste of the Comstock looks to be better than last years with pre-sales of tickets being over last years.

The Camel Race budget of $117k was approved. In looking at prior year’s numbers I was struck with the sharp decrease in profit or “event surplus” as it’s noted. Revenues seem to be flat and expenses up incrementally so why the huge hit to profits?

The 2014 profit was ~$40k, 2015 profit was ~$27k and 2016 projected profit is ~$21k. I asked if 2014 was an anomaly and if the next two years are more typical? Liquid Blue felt that the 2014 number was an anomaly. The event was at the Silverland that year and it allowed for more expensive and profitable private cabanas and VIP type activities….. the current venue doesn’t have that space….hence a decrease of that particular revenue. The expenses also did some shifting since 2014. The Camel Races has lost money in prior years and are now profitable so LB will continue to look for improvements to expense control and revenue generation.

They said that they will be working to keep people at the event venue so as to increase bar and vendor sales , that they will increase the standing room only ticket sales, add more entertainment, and would like to have the local merchants have their booths at the venue to help keep people there and generate revenue for the merchants.

Did you know that there is protection for artists under the first amendment? I didn’t. During public comment, local artist and Highlands resident Jennifer Williams asked the VCTC Board to create “free speech zones” at the many events that are held in VC so that local artists can display their works without having to pay for licensing or fees. She provided the board with the supporting precedents.

The board liked the idea and Deny said that although they cannot do it for events on private property that any event on public/county property has always had special rates for non-profits and that this could fit into that policy.

Lastly I’d like to correct a statement I made in my summary of the May 24th Storey County Commission meeting. In that article I stated:

Oh, and while we’re at it…..I was told by an employee at the Delta that it as well as the Bonanza is or will soon be under new ownership…that Tina Perkins has purchased it and will be securing a gaming license soon…hope this one is true….I’ll be happy to see the Delta and Bonanza fully operational again!

I had been told this by an employee at the Delta and had a second source in Reno gaming confirm it…I failed to go to the current owner to fully verify. My apologies to Mr. Malfitano and to my readers. Just goes to show…you can’t believe what people say until you go to the principal involved….get the facts!

I received a clarifying email from Vincent Malfitano and Tina Perkins who deny that the buildings and businesses have been sold and that in fact business is great. I can attest that the food is great. Mr. Malfitano stated that under Tina Perkins’ management employment at the Delta has gone from 3 to 23 employees. He intends to do extensive repair and remodeling at the Bonanza and plans to open that soon. I am happy to hear that people are employed and working hard to make the businesses a success. I wish them continued successes.

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