Lodger’s tax funds frozen

By Marlena Hartz: CNJ staff writer

Funding for a proposed Clovis sporting event has been denied until organizers show it isn’t a waste of taxpayer money.

Clovis Commissioners froze the release of $4,000 to revive the Gus Macker Basketball Tournament in Clovis at a Commission meeting Nov. 16. Funds for a 2007 tournament would have come from lodger’s taxes, as they have in the past.

Before commissioners open the taxpayers’ wallet again, they want hard evidence the event generates hotel and restaurant business.

Gus Macker organizers couldn’t prove the event boosted business at restaurants and hotels through receipts or records, according to City Commissioner Juan Garza, who serves on the Lodger’s Tax Advisory Board.

“We never could get a clear picture of how much money was being put into the tax fund from Gus Macker,” City Commissioner Lunnell Winton said.

“Nothing seems to be coming back to the community is the perception,” City Manager Joe Thomas said at the Nov. 16 meeting.

Lodger’s Tax dollars are doled out to organizations to assist with advertising and promoting events.

Gus Macker organizer and Clovis resident John Duval will give commissioners more information about the event in a city commission meeting Thursday, according to Thomas. Commissioners will reconsider funding at that time, he said.
Clovis News Journal attempts to reach Duval were unsuccessful.

The Gus Macker Basketball Tournament has been held in various towns for 25 years, according to notes from a Nov. 6 speech made by Duval to the Lodger’s Board.

The tournament was last held in Clovis in 2000, according to notes. With the relocation of a key Gus Macker organizer, the tournament lost steam, but at its height, it drew 357 teams, Duval indicated to the board.

Duval promised the Lodger’s Board some proceeds from the event would go to charity, notes show. In the past, some Gus Macker proceeds went to United Way, according to Duval.

But Winton — a former member of the Lodger’s Board — is skeptical. When she served on the board, Winton said she “felt too much of the money raised was going back to Gus Macker and not enough to charities.”

“It always looked like more money went to uniforms, T-shirts, and shoes (for Gus Macker),” Winton said at the Nov. 16 meeting.

Chairman of the Lodger’s Board, Don David, said he has no reason to be suspicious of the tournament.

“The event seemed to be successful,” David said.

He said the Lodger’s Board has no firm accountability system. The integrity and impact of events it recommends are generally judged after they occur, he said. The board usually asks to see some evidence of an event’s success in the form of records or receipts before recommending taxpayers contribute to it more than once, he said.

Taxpayers pumped more than just lodger’s taxes into this tournament, according to city officials. Additional taxpayer money had to be expended for traffic, parks and recreation, emergency medical and police services at the tournament, city officials said.

Adding to commissioner reservations: Last summer, about $4,000 in taxpayer money was used for advertising of a similar event, the Hoopla 3-On-3 basketball tournament, according to city officials. The event was never held.

City Attorney Dave Richards said organizers of that tournament offered to hold a sporting event next summer and pay for their advertisement as atonement.

Duval originally requested $8,000 to fund Gus Macker in 2007. The Lodger’s Board recommended the city fund half, as is common.

On Nov. 16, commissioners approved the release of $16,900 in lodger’s tax. Money that will be distributed includes: $5,000 for a rural economic conference, $4,000 for Clovis/Curry County Chamber of Commerce promotional items such as pens and pins, $3,000 for a holiday basketball event, $2,500 for the creation of a new Chamber map of the city, $2,000 for a Chamber dining and lodging guide, and $400 for a Chamber magazine.

Commissioners denied one other request for lodger’s tax funds. A Clovis resident wanted to use $40,000 in lodger’s taxes to start a basketball and football league. The lodger’s board advised commissioners to deny the request since the leagues would not generate out-of-town visitors.