SUNNYSIDE — With nearly all community celebrations cancelled this past year due to COVID-19, there is still money in the lodging tax revenue account. However, much less than the original estimate of $171,400. City festivals, funded by the lodging tax, have a direct impact on the amount of tax returning to the city, Councilman Dean Broersma who also serves as the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee (LTAC) committee chairman, explained.
The only event still on the 2020 calendar is the annual Rotary Lighted Farm Implement Parade which was granted $20,000 for this December’s event.
“There was an unprecedented impact on our events and on the revenues used to fund those events,” noted Broersma. “Which made determining funding proposal recommendations for 2021 events difficult.”
The lodging tax generated by “heads in beds” is used to generation funds for tourist-related activities.
“We can expect fewer tax revenues resulting in smaller amounts available to the event sponsors,” Broersma declared. “So, we have made our tax revenue estimate much lower.”
“We don’t know if or how tourist activities will resume or how generous lodging tax revenues in the coming months,” he commented.
The committee set its revenue estimate at $151,638.32 for seven 2021 tourism and promotional events.
“We recommend all signature celebrations receive reduced amounts,” Broersma suggested.
Before the vote was taken, Councilman Mike Farmer said the make-up of the LTAC group bothered him, noting that two of the committee were also recipients of the allotted funds. “Shouldn’t they have recused themselves from the vote?” he asked.
Broersma said since only three of the six-member committee were present, if one had recused themself from the vote, “…nothing would have gotten done.”
According state laws, the LTAC group must be made up of those whose business which generate lodging taxes and those who receive the revenues, explained councilman Jim Restucci. “It’s the law.”
Broersma said committee members Martin Beeler and Tom Denlea were absent. One had offered an excuse and the other has three unexcused absences. Present were Amy Rubio and Lindsee Curfman, who represent tax utilizing agencies.
“I plan to talk with Denlea and Beeler to find a solution to their attendance records,” he promised.
The council reviewed each proposal at its Sept. 14 meeting before conferring its 2021 recommendations as follows:
The Cinco de Mayo Festival ($25,000), Sunshine Days ($10,000), Sunnyside Lighted Farm Implement Parade ($18,000), the Sunnyside Marketing Tourism Project ($56,138.32) Sort 4 the Cause ($4,000), Jerry Taylor Veterans Plaza ($13,000), and Miss Sunnyside Committee Community Float ($2,500).
The funds are distributed through reimbursement, Broersma reminded the council.