Chamber explains bed tax spending
LISBON – The Chamber of Commerce showed up at this week’s Village Council meeting with a report detailing how the organization spent its share of motel tax revenue the past two years.
The report was hand-delivered by chamber President Susan Shank and comes a month after some village officials suggested the chamber provide such a report showing how it is spending revenue generated by Lisbon’s 6 percent motel bed tax.
The tax was adopted in the early 2000s after the Days Inn was built and the property was annexed into Lisbon. Council decide to split the proceeds with the chamber, with the stipulation it be spent promoting tourism.
In recent years, the tax has begun to generate a substantial amount of money due to the shale gas boom in eastern Ohio. When council members learned the tax generated $40,181 last year, some members began wondering about how the chamber was spending its share.
Mayor Dan Bing was invited to the March 5 chamber meeting, where officials assured him the money was being spent as required. Bing indicated to them it be would enough if they began providing council with copies of the organization’s monthly meeting minutes to keep them abreast of how the money is being spent.
Shank’s appeared two days after a Morning Journal editorial was published stating the chamber should still account to council how the money is being spent rather than just provide meeting minutes. She provided spending reports for 2011 and 2012, along the meeting minutes for the chamber’s Feb. 12 meeting.
The 2012 reported listed $10,063 in expenditures from the chamber’s tourism account, with $3,434 appearing to have been spent promoting the annual Johnny Appleseed Festival, which serves as the chamber’s chief fundraising event.
Shank said the chamber has no problem sharing the information with council, noting they have added the village as a chamber member and officials are encouraged to attend meetings.
“We would love to have anyone (from the village) involved,” Shank said.
During the meeting, chamber member Susan Mowery, who was also in attendance, pointed out the chamber and village have always enjoyed a good working relationship, noting the chamber assisted on efforts to land the federal prison.
Mayor Bing reiterated he was satisfied with the chamber’s response. “I think you guys do a wonderful job,” he said.
Chamber explains bed tax spending
LISBON – Chamber of Commerce officials assured Mayor Dan Bing they are spending motel tax revenue as required on tourism.
“We are doing many, many things associated with tourism,” Chamber President Susan Shank told Bing during Tuesday’s chamber board meeting.
Bing had been invited to the meeting after chamber members read newspaper stories about Village Council wanting the organization to give an accounting of how it is spending revenue generated by Lisbon’s 6 percent motel bed tax.
Adopted in the early 2000s after the Days Inn was built and the property was annexed into Lisbon, council agreed to give half the tax proceeds to the chamber, with the stipulation it be spent on tourism.
In recent years, the tax has begun to generate a substantial amount of money because of the shale boom underway in the region, resulting in a spike in occupancy. The motel tax raised $40,181 last year, with half going to the chamber. When some council members learned of this, they wondered how the chamber was spending the money.
Shank estimated 90 percent of all chamber spending is related to tourism, including holding the annual Johnny Appleseed Festival, which is attended by more than 10,000 people every September and serves as the organization’s chief fundraiser.
At least one council member disputed whether spending motel tax money on the two-day festival met the definition of promoting tourism, but Shank said that not only does the event attract thousands, many first-time festival-goers return to spend more time in Lisbon after being exposed to the village and liking what they see.
Chamber members said the monthly Concerts on the Square they host every summer also serve to attract visitors and generate commerce for local businesses, and the organization has also spent money to place advertisements in regional tourism publications.
For his part, Bing said council was simply “looking for accountability on how our money is being spent,” adding he believed there was often a fine line between what might be an acceptable expense. For example, he suggested the chamber would be justified in using some of its motel tax money to pay the wages of Director Marilyn McCullough to compensate her for the time she spends on tourism-related work, although that has never been done, nor are there any plans to do so.
“There’s no problem,” Bing assured the chamber. “They (council) just want some accountability.”
Chamber member Brad Forrider was glad to hear that because he was concerned there might be a rift after reading the news accounts.
The chamber decided to make council a member and put them on the mailing list for all official correspondence, including meeting minutes and financial reports.
“Thank you, and let’s keep the lines of communication open,” Shank told the mayor.
According to the chamber financial records, the organization has a balance of $23,921 in its tourism fund. At its February meeting, the board agreed to take $10,000 in tourism money and invest it with Edward Jones Financial, with Forrider abstaining from the vote since he works for Edward Jones.