SO PROUD…THE VCTC’S “BENEATH THE SURFACE“ VIDEO SERIES GETS HIGH PRAISE AT THE GOVERNORS CONFERENCE ON TOURISM AND WILL BE PART OF BOTH A STATEWIDE AND NATIONAL MARKETING CAMPAIGN FOR NEVADA…….SO NOT PROUD…..MONEY GROWS ON TREES ..ALL WE HAVE TO DO IS RAISE TAXES AND WE CAN KEEP SPENDING!
By Nicole Barde
First up was Public Comment. County Comptroller High Gallagher got up to say that if the VCTC Board wanted to act on additional sources of revenue that they needed to decide prior to January 31, 2017 in order to get it thru County Commissioner approvals in time for the budgeting process for 2018. He said that the existing sources (Lodging and tourism tax) are not enough to fund VCTC Executive Director Deny Dotson’s activities. That there are no other revenue sources to support or grow the VCTC’s activities and other sources of revenues are needed. By additional sources of revenue he means either a tack on to licensing and/or an additional tax imposed on the VC special Revenue district. This means that merchants will have an additional tax to pay so that they will have “skin in the game” as Hugh put it.
Hugh noted that the Department of Taxation will not approve any budget that is in deficit, that the VCTC has had deficit budgets for the last 3 years and that it will not get approved by the Department of Taxation the next time around even if, as in the past, the County Commissioners approve it.
Hugh also mentioned that the USDA’s current rate is at 1.3% and that if the VCTC wanted to build up the Black and Howell property that it’s a good time to do that.
SIDENOTE: WHAT????? Who pays that back? The entire county or just the VC special revenue district residents? Will it be another additional tax or fee increase like water and sewer? I understand that money is cheap and that it’s a good time to invest but do you do that when you don’t have the cash flow to cover your operating expenses? But I digress….let’s just continue to spend..we can always increase taxes.
At some point during the conversation County Commissioner, TRI principal and VCTC Board member Lance Gilman said that “there are significant sales tax revenues coming soon from TRI” and that there will be three lodging properties yielding about 700 hotel rooms.
SIDENOTE: I am happy to keep hearing that an abundance of riches is happening any day now…any day. But remember that the County must pay 35% of all of that revenue back to TRI for the $45 million +/- infrastructure debt. It’s actually a good deal that TRI is building that infrastructure since the County can’t afford to do it….but we do take on that debt. So, the County will only get 65% of all that revenue to spend on VCTC and other things.
Deny asked when the audited financials would be available and Hugh indicated that they are not likely to be complete until the December County Commission meeting. There was some discussion about the VCTC Board needing to look at the additional revenue needs, additional revenue sources as well as do some projections on the potential TRI windfall. It was suggested that the Board and the VCTC key players have a session to discuss all of this and then have a public “workshop” to get inputs.
SIDENOTE: The use of the term “workshop” every time I hear it makes my head explode. When I put on a workshop it is to get people actually WORKING on the problem, coming up with solutions, evaluating the pros and cons of those solutions and then making decisions or identifying options for action. The context of “workshop” as I have seen it used in the County with the public is the county folks get together and basically decide what they want to do then run it up the flagpole for inputs from the public. This is what they call a workshop and I wish they’d stop calling it that since no work is being done with or by the public in these meetings. In the real world it’s called getting input to a decision already made.
If the VCTC really wants valid input to this then they need to include merchants in this first meeting since the types of actions coming out of it will likely be a tax on the merchants and they should have a voice BEFORE they are stuck with a new tax…..JMHO.
Next up was the financial update.
After the usual cursory look at the Tourism and Transient Lodging Tax results Deny started to review the Current fiscal year budget and said that there were lots of things missing from the report, that it wasn’t accurate and that “I’m not doing a good job on our financials and I need to do better”. He said that he didn’t understand why the numbers kept changing and that there might also be an issue in Hugh’s office causing the discrepancies. An example of that is the “balance forward” amount on this month’s balance sheet is different than the “ending balance” from last month’s sheet. Apparently there is no month end “close” at the county so numbers are fluid and ever changing. How fun.
While I am happy to hear that Deny now recognizes that he needs to actually pay attention to, understand and manage the financials I hope he also sees the need to completely rethink the business model he uses since money growing on trees to pay for stuff isn’t a viable revenue strategy for long.
The next item was the Marketing updates.
In addition to the usual data report we watched two videos. The first one was the “Below the Surface” video highlighting Tom Gray and the V&T. I have to say it is beautiful….just beautiful…at least to me. Tom talks about the rail road like my grandfather used to talk about it…with great pride and love. We’re so lucky that Tom and his family have preserved it for us. The second video wasn’t a finished product but it was also excellent. It was of the rodeo. It conveyed a great deal of energy, excitement and fun. The “Below the Surface” video series has been a great success in both the quality of the videos and their content.
The budget was for about $10,000 to produce 10 videos. If that cost holds then $1000 per video is excellent given the quality of the production. The staff had set an arbitrary goal of 1 million views for the whole series of 10 and they are already at 1 million views for the 7 released to date.
Deny reported that the video series was highlighted as a standout product during the recent Governors Global Tourism Summit. It will be used as part of a statewide marketing campaign as well as part of the global “Brand USA” campaign. This is excellent visibility for Nevada and VC in particular. BRAVO!
Next up was Special Event updates.
The results of the 4th of July fire investigation are still not in. The Camel races were very successful but we don’t have all the numbers back in yet, the Outhouse races were the best ever according to the VCTC Board and Redrun had 900 people running. The “Way it Was Rodeo” will lose money.
The rodeo event was successful from the standpoint of letting lots of people know that we have the venue for this type of event and other special events requiring a large arena type venue. This should result in people contacting VCTC to bring in more attractions. That’s good news. It was also successful in that those who attended really enjoyed themselves. The producers of the rodeo were professionals and the rodeo had something for everyone.
One of the things that didn’t work so well was that with this type of rodeo there is A LOT of gear and trailers for the stock. The town ran out of space for the stock trailers which caused a problem. The revenues also won’t cover the expenses. A big part of the expenses was what was paid to the promoters and the producers of the rodeo. They were excellent but that expense would be less if we had a different type of rodeo.
There was discussion about how these are signature events for VC, can only be experienced in VC and that they are not necessarily money makers. That it takes a long time for events to make money. Deny said that people who expect the events to make money are ignorant about what the purpose is and that purpose is to market VC…not necessarily make money.
SIDENOTE. I would agree that in business you sometimes take a loss now in order to make money later. You spend money to test something or to market something and draw customers to your other products and services. What I do not agree with is that you keep doing it, at a loss, over and over again without changing something significant to mitigate or eliminate the loss. But then if the merchants are seeing a significant uptick in their business as a result of these events then it’s all working just fine.
Finally was the report on Groups, Tradeshows and the Visitor Center. Staff member Katie DeMuth reported that VC has had about 5000 people on group visits so far this year. She and Deny both attended the Governors Global Tourism Summit and learned that India, Brazil, Mexico and France had the greatest interest in the American West and Nevada. That Chinese-Americans are also a huge market for Nevada tourism since many are looking for their heritage and since the Comstock has a rich history involving Chinese workers that we need to highlight that history in our targeted marketing.
Deny also noted that there is a segment called “faith based” tourism. Those who like to visit the various historical churches and other sites of religious significance. That is another area we have that needs to be highlighted.