Summit County re-examines use of Transient Room Tax funds
Considers reducing amount given to the Park City Chamber of Commerce/Convention
Last week, the Summit County Council began the process of re-examining how Transient Room Tax funds are distributed and may consider reducing the amount given to the Park City Chamber of Commerce/Convention & Visitors Bureau.
The County Council has officially begun a year-long process to potentially renegotiate the contract the county has with the Chamber/Bureau. In March of 2011, the county entered into a 10-year agreement regarding Transient Room Tax (TRT) funds with the Chamber/Bureau. However, the contract stipulates that it may be re-negotiated with a 360-day advanced written notice.
Ninety percent of TRT funds, which are collected from overnight stays at locations such as hotels and nightly rentals, are given to the Chamber/Bureau. According to state code, TRT funds may be utilized for “establishing and promoting recreation, tourism, film production, and conventions.” It further provides for the “acquisition, leasing, construction, furnishing, maintenance and operations of “convention meeting rooms, exhibit halls, visitor information centers, museums, [and] sports and recreation facilities.”
“When the County Council gave the $2 million grant from our TRT resources to Park City for the acquisition of Bonanza Flats, they considered that a recreation facility,” said Tom Fisher, county manager. “I think that gives an indication of an area the council might be looking at if they were able to retain more of the TRT funds.”
Over the past several years, the Chamber/Bureau’s collected portion of the TRT funds has grown from about $4.5 million to $8.7 million annually, according to a county staff report. The report indicated the county expects that number to swell to $9.2 million by 2021.
“The agreement on the TRT hasn’t always been 90 percent, but I don’t think we have a target in mind at this point,” Fisher said. “But we hear the conversations in the community about what is the right level of tourism and what are the right levels of events, and we have very diverse opinions on that.”
At the same time, Fisher said, when 90 percent of the funding is going to promote tourism, which “helps our economy, but it is concentrated in Park City and the Snyderville Basin, it doesn’t at necessarily have as much benefit to the other places in the county.”
However, Fisher acknowledged that most of the TRT funds are collected in Park City and the Basin. He added, “But there may be opportunities to provide some enhancements to other parts of the county.”
Recently, the County Council has used monies from the TRT funds to pay for a portion of the planning for the expansion of the Summit County Fairgrounds.
“There may be other facility projects that meet the parameters of the law and there are always other proposals in the community for property purchases,” Fisher said. “I have not heard any discussion about any criticism from the council about how the chamber has been using their 90 percent.
“It is not at all about trying to change that from the perspective of how they program those dollars,” he said. “We really enjoy our relationship with the Chamber and feel they do a good job of promoting Summit County.”
The remaining 10 percent of the TRT that is collected is used to help fund the operations of the county’s Historical Society and the Summit County Fair. The rest is placed into a balance, which is being utilized for the grant to Park City for the purchase of Bonanza Flats and toward the Weber River corridor project in Oakley.
Bill Malone, president and CEO of the Chamber/Bureau, said the money it receives helps funds a robust program to “drive overnight business that replenishes the tax and allow our focus on trying to attract first-time visitation.” The Chamber/Bureau does this through advertisements in print and television.
The impact a re-negotiation would have on the Chamber/Bureau’s operations depends on how much is ultimately cut from funding, Malone said.
“We would have to look and see where we will get the most bang for our buck because we do recognize that this number has grown significantly over the last decade we recognize they have a desire to use those funds for other programs,” Malone said. “We understand that they have the ability to do that, we just don’t have the full picture. We have always had a great discussion with the County Council and if there are other things that they have mind, hopefully they are things that will benefit the business community, as well.”
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Planning Commissioners said the Promontory decision would have to wait until the County Council decides a related case, as early as August.