THE BALL FRY WAS CANCELED AND APRIL’S RURAL ROUNDUP HAS BEEN POSTPONED…BOTH ARE THE RIGHT CALLS BUT HOW MANY MORE CANCELLATIONS WILL THERE…SHOULD THERE BE?
THE 2020-2021 PROPOSED BUDGET WAS APPROVED…BUT AS OF THAT MOMENT IT DIDN’T HAVE ANY COVID-19 IMPACT CONTINGENCIES
MERCHANTS NEED TO TAKE COVID-19 HEALTH PRECAUTIONS IN THEIR STORES WHILE THE COUNTY WILL TAKE CARE OF THE BOARDWALK
SBA HAS EMERGENCY LOANS AT LOW RATES FOR BUSINESSES WHO HAVE NEGATIVE IMPACTS AS A RESULT OF COVID-19
TOURS ARE NOT CANCELING YET BUT THE DAYS AND TIMES MIGHT CHANGE AS COVID-19 ESCALATES
CONGRATULATIONS TO ARIKA PERRY, THE NEW BOARD CHAIR, AND COMMISSIONER JAY CARMONA, NEW BOARD MEMBER.
**Needless to say that a lot has happened since this meeting and I will try and feather that in as I go.
During Public Comment at the beginning of the meeting Deny Dotson, VCTC Executive Director talked about the status of COVID-19 at that time. As of that meeting, there were no plans to cancel anything and the Ball fest was a go ( until it was canceled later in the day). He went thru the various precautions that the VCTC had in place including additional washing stations near the event, posters reminding people to wash hands, giving vendors additional gloves and supplies.
The Silverland noted that they were fully booked for the weekend and only had 2 cancellations due to incoming weather.
Deny noted that there were no plans to cancel Rural Roundup in April ( later in the day it got postponed)
I asked Deny what he was going to do for the merchants. That since the VCTC was going to spend additional funds for the vendors and add additional wash stations in the event areas that perhaps funding some things for the merchants would also be prudent. His response was that the vendors pay fees to be at the event and so this is part of what they get.
I said that the merchants pay taxes and if extra precautions are being taken for the vendors then so it should be for the merchants. That perhaps put some wash stations on the boardwalk, give the merchants some help in that area. It’s a public health issue.
I said that perhaps that’s not a VCTC issue, that it might be a County issue to tackle as part of their public service and emergency management response. Commissioner and new VCTC Board member Jay Carmona said that he’d look into that.
The Tourism Tax shows an increase of about $30k over last year at this time and is ahead of the budget by about $115k. The Transient Lodging Tax is equally robust and also ahead of last year by a bit.
Deny went thru the budget presentation for 2020-2021 and at the beginning, he went thru his usual disclaimer about having no active role in RAD Strategies which he co-owns with his wife and who is the recipient of the VCTC Marketing contract. I suggest that you go thru his presentation on the budget…it is very interesting. There were different historical comparisons so it wasn’t a clean summary but here are a few numbers:
- 2009 total Revenues=$457k
- 2019 total Revenues=$1,567 Million
- 2020 budget proposed Revenues=$1,818 Million
- 2018 Total Expenses=$1,419,900
- 2020 budget proposed Expenses=$1,744,100
- 2019 Projected ending fund balance=$897,090
- 2020 Projected ending fund balance=$971,000
- 2016 Marketing Spend=$108k
- 2020 budget proposed Marketing spend=$350,900
HERE is the detail of the budget.
There was a colored pie chart on the allocation of the Marketing dollars looking at 2016 and 2020…but the colors were different between the two charts so it was hard to see the before and after on the spending. The bottom line was that the VCTC has invested heavily in marketing and has greatly diversified where it spends those dollars.
Deny noted that they were going to make a capital purchase of a new trolley to help with moving people around during events.
Vincent Malfitano, owner of the Delta and Bonanza saloons commented that he had already made an investment in the purchase of the current trolley business and that having the government come in and compete directly with him is taking money away from a local business and questioned its legality. He also noted that the way that some of the events were handled in the past also took money away from local businesses. He mentioned vendors competing directly with food establishments and fencing off of the street during one of the events as examples.
I asked if Deny and the Board had done contingency budget scenarios in light of the economic havoc that COVID-19 is already having around the world and the US. I noted that large Corporations are amazingly agile when it comes to stopping their spending and that the lodging and tourism taxes that we currently enjoy out of TRI will be severely affected when they put on the brakes. Deny said that they hadn’t done that but that they will adjust as they go.
The proposed budget was approved by the Board.
The Chili on the Comstock and Pipers budgets were also approved.
SIDENOTE– being a veteran of more spending halts, hiring freezes, cutbacks and layoffs than I can count …I have to say that to “ adjust as you go” without doing that with a PLAN….leads to expensive pain. VCTC needs to look at the event calendar and project what events are likely to be cancelled near term and do a budget for that. COVID-19 precautions and government actions will affect EVERYONES revenues and the expenses.
Anything that isn’t locked in from an expense standpoint NOW should be pushed out.
No new hiring, no big purchases. Investments in those areas where it’s strategic…ie…if Malfitano has a trolley then maybe the VCTC doesn’t spend on that this year….if the Fairgrounds needs upgrades for safety/capacity maybe they invest in that.
We ARE in a recession….God forbid but it might make 2008 look like the good ole days. I’d do some modeling of the Tourism and Lodging Tax revenues to best case, likely case and worse case projections then see what I can afford based on those numbers. But hey….I’m not a government worker.
As for the merchants…they know what to do and they know what’s coming. After this meeting I got an alert from the SBA about loans that they have related to losses caused by COVID-19. I posted that on the Merchant and Virginia City Face Book pages. Here is the link again…. SBA LOAN
During the Marketing update, Deny said that the ticket sales for the Ball fest were down by 20% which he attributed to the weather given that a storm was coming in.
SIDENOTE– Here’s a thought….God forbid that we have to cancel events for the next couple of months….what are we promoting? God forbid that we are plunged into another 2008 type recession and disposable income dries up, how do we convince people to drop their money here? God forbid that the COVID-19 effect of no to limited “congregation” is in effect for a long time..how will we get people up here besides having events? Hopefully we can continue to strengthen our Step Back in Time brand and continue to promote the uniqueness of our history to get folks up here.
This is why you do contingency planning…
During the Groups and FAMS update, Katie Demuth, Marketing Manager, reported that alto tours are not being canceled wholesale that people on those tours are canceling. Meaning that a 40 person tour is now a 20 person tour. The operators have had to reroute some of the tours which will affect the days and times that they show up in VC.
Buckle up…it’s going to be a bumpy ride…