Bill Wayne's Political Pages - The Gadfly
Gadfly 232
Submitted to the Warrensburg Gazette for March 18, 2004

The Gadfly is a series of letters offering commentary on local issues and published in the Warrensburg Gazette.

I see the Greater Warrensburg Area Chamber of Commerce (GWACC&VC) and its use of the 2.5% room tax for tourism are back in the news. It's good to see that they're attending the meeting planners' trade show and that their booth got recognition. Getting larger groups to come to Warrensburg is certainly a good objective for them and can help the motels that collect the tax that pays the freight. I did note that the booth was a cooperative effort with CMSU; one would hope that the GWACC&VC would promote other facilities in town besides CMSU, since CMSU events don't add to the overall tax collected by the City. I also hope they tell us if this booth generates any meetings.

Speaking of taxes, the City Attorney has suddenly decided that the motels should collect lodging tax from non-profit organizations that pay for stays at the motel. This is a complete reversal of the information provided the motels and the public back in 1998 when the tax was passed by a total of 44 votes out of 1400 cast. Since, based on the estimate of additional tax to be collected, non-profits account for about 40% of the motels' revenues, it's likely they would have been less cooperative in the creation of the tax. Interestingly, the letter provided the motels doesn't cite the statutory authority for the new interpretation. Furthermore, if a visiting school or government agency refuses to pay the tax, then the city is demanding that the hotelier take it out of his own hide.

If the city is going to collect and hand over to the GWACC&VC about $100,000 per year, the use of the money needs more scrutiny. It's good to see that City Council members are asking more detailed questions than has been their wont; they need to delve much deeper into tracking the effectiveness of all this spending. Currently, the largest single expenditure is salaries, followed by the 20% "chamber portion." Nothing in the current ordinance, the contract with the GWACC&VC or the GWACC&VC marketing plan requires any proof of the effectiveness of tourism efforts. Nothing in the ordinance requires the city to give the money to the GWACC&VC, either.

I'm gathering some additional material on the past years' reports and data. It's time to for the City Council to insure that the city exercises some oversight on the tourism tax expenditures. Let's see some proof that the money is being used effectively to improve Warrensburg economically and isn't just a slush fund for the chamber.

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