By Glen Seeber: CNJ staff writer
Clovis’ Lodger’s Tax is an income source that, in effect, hopes to pull itself up by its bootstraps.
Lodgers are taxed when they stay at the local hotels and motels. The money is then used to promote Clovis as a place to visit, which presumably helps increase the number of lodgers staying at the local facilities, thus increasing the tax revenues.
The 12 lodging facilities whose temporary residents contribute to the tax raised more than $360,000 in 2003, up from roughly $314,600 raised in 2002 — although there were only 11 lodging facilities at the beginning of the year until the La Quinta Suites opened in March 2002.
The 5 percent tax is in two parts: Revenues from 3 percent go to fund promotion of special events, and the revenues from 2 percent go into a fund for the proposed civic center.
Promotional revenues from the Lodger’s Tax are distributed by the Lodger’s Tax Advisory Board, according to City Commissioner Juan Garza, a member of the board.
The board will meet at 5:30 p.m. on April 26 at the Holiday Inn.
At the meeting, Garza said, “groups will come and ask for money to promote their events. We look at the request and see if it meets our guidelines.”
The money must be used to promote events that will bring people into Clovis, to spend the night.
“Say a group wants to hold an event that takes just one day, and would not require a stay overnight. We would probably deny the request,” he said.
“If it’s a new event, where we don’t know for sure what will happen, sometimes we do fund them.”
The main point, he said, is that the group planning the event needs to advertise outside the community, saying, in effect, “Come and visit Clovis.”
“They don’t just come and ask for the money and we say, ‘Here it is,’” he said.
“If they’re just local, and putting up some flyers on walls or windows of businesses, we don’t consider that a good request.”
When the board gets a good request, how much money is provided depends on a number of factors, Garza said.
“It’s depending on how much they ask for, how much money we have, and how many other groups want funding,” he said. “We have a hard time determining which is the best event we have.
“We have to determine which will be more beneficial to the hotels, since that is where the money comes from.”
Ernie Kos, executive director of the Clovis-Curry County Chamber, said the funding used by the chamber is indispensable. “We use it to promote Clovis as a tourism destination. We don’t have the mountains and other God-given attractions, so we use it to promote specific events to bring people in from outside the community.”
Annual chamber-related events include the High Plains Junior Rodeo Finals, the Badlands Motorcycle Rally, and the Pioneer Days Balloon Jubilee, she said.
“We also use it for general promotion of Clovis — brochures and advertising. That’s a big part of what we do,” she said.
“The funds help us to promote Clovis, to build awareness locally as well as around the state and regionally. We’re in the New Mexico Vacation Guide, and we wouldn’t be able to do that without the Lodger’s Tax.”
If all of the best possible visitor-attracting events get the funding they need, and if there is money left, then the least-likely events may still get some assistance. “As long as they’re promoting the city, that’s fine with us,” Garza said. “We don’t want to leave anybody out.”
The money is not used to actually put on an event, he said. It can only be used to attract visitors to the community for the event.
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A heapin’ helpin’ of hospitality
Lodger’s Tax Advisory Board members include:
• Don David, representing the public.
• Brian Chambers and Ashok Bhakta, representing the lodging industry.
• Tom Martin, representing the restaurant industry.
• Tammy Wheeler, representing the travel industry.
• Juan Garza, representing the city of Clovis.