There was some haggling – and a call for a more precise formula to be used in the future – but the Spokane Valley City Council divvyed up $510,500 collected lodging tax funds on Tuesday.
While some groups left not getting exactly what they wanted, organizers of the late summer festival Valleyfest went home knowing they would be getting something: $35,200.
Valleyfest had been hoping for $40,000, but it could have been much worse – this year, as in 2011, the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee had recommended by majority vote not giving the event’s organizers anything.
Valleyfest counts on the lodging tax funds – which is collected from overnight stays in area hotels and motels and then redistributed to various organizations that must use it to promote tourism – in order to advertise and market the September event at Mirabeau Park.
But some advisory committee members say the three-day Valleyfest doesn’t put the heads in beds that sporting events at the HUB Sports Center or at Plantes Ferry Park do year-round. She suggested that the HUB, Spokane Regional Sports Commission and Visit Spokane were better equipped to market the region and draw tourism than some of the other groups on the list, such as Valleyfest or the Spokane Valley Heritage Museum.
Valleyfest eventually received $30,000 earlier this year in lodging tax money in a second round of distribution. It also received $19,500 in “outside agency” funding from the city in 2012 and another $19,368 for next year.
“(Valleyfest) is two nights out of 365 nights,” said Jody Sander, representing the Spokane Hotel Motel Association. “We have to look at what’s going to bring us the most bang for our buck.”
Mayor Tom Towey argued, however, that a large percentage of tourists who visit Spokane Valley don’t necessarily spend the night but do shop, visit restaurants and buy gasoline.
“Heads in beds is really important,” Towey said. “But we have another chunk out there that is an unknown.”
Towey also suggested that the council take a look at coming up with a formula for calculating which group gets what amount in the future, possibly at the February council retreat.
“We have to come up with a formula that’s fair to everybody,” he said. “Visit Spokane is certainly a different category than the museum.”
Various council members came up with different formula to fund the applying organizations. In the end, the council approved the final amounts in a 5-2 vote. Council Members Arne Woodard and Brenda Grassel voted no.
Those receiving funds are:
- HUB Sports Center, $21,100 (requested $50,000)
- Spokane County Fair and Expo Center, $27,800, (requested $30,000)
- Spokane Regional Sports Commission, $150,200, (requested $200,000)
- Spokane Valley Heritage Museum, $6,400, (requested $12,000)
- Valleyfest, $35,200, (requested $50,000)
- Visit Spokane, $184,800, (requested $350,000)
Grassel said that the amounts were “top heavy” in areas that did not necessarily benefit the hotels and motels. And Woodard said he would have like to have seen an extra $5,000 go to the museum.
The council also authorized $30,000 to be spent for the advertising of city-owned CenterPlace and $50,000 for city marketing efforts.