County tourism tax advisory board conducts joint panel's first meeting
The members of the Carbon County Tourism Tax Advisory Board met for the first time last Thursday.
Even though there is more than a decade of history and experience dealing with restaurant and transient room tax issues, the unique position of the new board poses a number of questions that will have to be settled in the upcoming weeks.
The combined panel was created recently out of the two previous boards that administered the monies from the restaurant and transient room taxes.
Under the old system, the restaurant tax board recommended expenditures to the county commissioners. The commissioners then approved or rejected what the tax board did with various groups that applied for funds.
On the other hand the travel bureau board administered the transient room tax monies and provided direct approval for projects submitted.
The travel bureau also got a certain amount of money from the restaurant tax board each year and administered the funds as well.
At the end of the year, the director of tourism would report to the county commission what the board had done.
Last Thursday, the first order of the day for the combined board was to pick a chair and a vice-chair.
The chairman who was selected was Nick Tatton, who is the community director for Price City. Andy Urbanic, a restaurant owner and East Carbon councilmember, was picked as the vice chair.
The board also came up with staggered terms for the members so that, in any one year, the entire board would not pass out of responsibility.
Four members were given two-year terms. The members included Dan Allen, College of Eastern Utah; Christine Trease, prehistoric museum; Angie Johansen, county airport; and Dustin Wardle, lodging and food.
The other three board members - Tatton, Urbanic and Barbie Deleeuw, lodging and food - were given a one year term,. But if the three are reinstated next year, they will go to two-year terms. Therefore, members serving on the board will have alternating terms that expire.
Christian Bryner, the deputy Carbon County attorney, was also on the docket at last week's board meeting. Bryner brought documentation concerning the new tax board along with a draft of by-laws. While much of what the attorney brought was straightforward and followed what had been done in the past, there were some questions concerning the new board's responsibilities.
"I kept the bylaws general and similar to the previous by-laws the other boards had," Bryner told the board.
One of the major questions during the meeting was directed at the differences between this and the two previous boards and how the present board should operate. For instance the Restaurant Tax Board required that all applicants that requested money have some kind of municipality as their main sponsor. On the other hand the Travel Bureau Board had not required that. They just required that the money be spent on projects that would bring people from outside the area into Carbon County.
To the uninitiated that may not seem like a large difference but when it comes to giving out money for projects, making groups have a municipality sponsor could cut some out of the opportunity to even apply for funding.
Initially the board thought that the funds from both tax bases could be used interchangeably, but that is not a sure thing after discussions during the meeting. They may have to apply different rules for the two funds. Bryner was asked to check on the legal aspects of these concerns.
Dan Allen and Delynn Fielding (an ad hoc member of the board who is the counties economic development director) also presented a unified fund request application to the board.
"What we think should be involved in this application is some computations concerning how the money we give from the funds generates revenue back to the area," said Allen concerning the fact that the money from the taxes is to be used to bring people from outside the area to Carbon County. "The state uses a figure that says the average visitor spends about $120 per day when they stay in an area for food, lodging, entertainment and other activities. We want to know how close people who come here through money we invest come to spending that amount. We also want our applicants to calculate the cost per visitor from the funds we grant them. In addition we want them to tell us how much of the total project we are funding compared to other sources of revenue they may have for the project."
After reviewing the application, the board decided it needed a little more work and asked Allen and Fielding to make some changes.
The board also decided to be very flexible in terms of its meeting times. Since they are just beginning with this version of the tax board they discussed the fact they may need to meet more often than their planned schedule should anything arise before March 25, which is the next scheduled meeting time.
Other regular meetings for this year are scheduled for May 26, July 28, Sept. 22 and Nov. 24.