Local boards jockey for cut of tourism tax dollars
By Kyle Vuille
Ranger-Review Staff Writer
A dust up between the Tourism Business Improvement District and the Dawson County Economic Development Committee appears to have arisen as a result of poor documentation and power transfers between and among the two entities.
At last month’s DCEDC meeting, the subject of money being transferred between the entities was raised by DCEDC Board President Rhett Coon, but some in the room seemed to signal him not to talk openly about the matter in the public meeting.
When pressed about the matter and why there seemed to be an effort to keep it quiet, Interim DCEDC Director Craig Anderson said it was just a simple billing issue.
In a letter dated Aug. 10 addressed to the TBID board, Coon formally asked the board to reimburse his group 20 percent of the proceeds of TBID’s second quarter tax collections.
The 20 percent amounts to about $5,800 out of the $1 per night tax collected for TBID.
According to Coon’s letter, TBID was administered by DCEDC from April 2010 until June 2017. During this time, DCEDC was paid 20 percent as an administrative fee.
The disagreement is one of timing. EDC wants money collected during April, May and June. However, because TBID didn’t actually receive the disbursement until August, TBID Director Connie Hilger doesn’t think any money is owed.
According to a Sept. 9 email sent by Hilger, she spoke with Deputy County Attorney Brett Irigoin about the DCEDC’s request. Hilger says Irigoin’s opinion is that the DCEDC is not entitled to the money.
This seems to be based at least in part on the fact that no one has produced evidence that there was an agreement for EDC to receive the 20 percent at any time, let alone for the contested second quarter, according to Hilger.
Hilger made the point that if EDC wants to be reimbursed for past collections, accounts in arrears – such as the Jordan Inn – could keep DCEDC’s “20 percent gig” going on forever.
In other words, the DCEDC is asking for 20 percent of money collected during their administration, while TBID believes payments should end on any disbursements received after the TBID became independent of the DCEDC in June.
For his part, Coon acknowledged that the transition from administration by DCEDC to administration by local hoteliers has made things complicated, but explained the DCEDC is not trying to make drama unnecessarily.
“People think we’re getting rich off this (TBID),” Coon said.
During a DCEDC meeting Tuesday evening, Commissioner Doug Buxbaum said he would speak to Irigoin and attempt to resolve the issue.
Coon said DCEDC will then have to decide how to proceed.
“Our options are say ‘sorry you feel that way’ or fight and drag stuff through the mud,” Coon said.
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