In 2010, the city looked at the possibility of raising those taxes,
and then planned to collect a share, but found that could not be
Geoff Ladd, tourism executive director, said it has come to the
bureau's attention that the city may now be interested in claiming
those taxes, and he said the city has the right to do that.
As to why the city might be doing this now, he did not know. "The
indication is that the city is not adequately satisfied that we are
representing the city with the business that we conduct," he said.
He had reviewed the bureau's budget and observed: "Well over half
of our budget directly or indirectly affects the city of Lincoln."
Naming a few places and events, he listed "Lincoln Postville
Courthouse, Lincoln Heritage Museum, the Art & Balloon Festival, the
National Railsplitting Festival, and so on."
Lincoln Alderman Tom O'Donohue came to the tourism meeting with a
letter signed by Lincoln Mayor Keith Snyder requesting the
acceptance of O'Donohue as liaison for the city. It was noted that
this was the first time in the bureau's 26-year history that a city
liaison had been in attendance.
In the city's defense, O'Donohue said the city did not know it
had that opportunity. He also later said that he would like to
continue to act as an ex officio, in hopes it would help
communications that had been lacking on what the bureau is doing. He
had already heard some things he had not known about that the bureau
did that were of benefit to Lincoln.
The reason the special meeting was called, rather than wait for
the monthly meeting on March 26, is that there are a number of
deadlines and timely measures that would need to be taken in the
event of the bureau's discontinuance.
Particularly of concern, Ladd said that timing is critical in
applying for an annual state grant due at the end of March. The
grant of $27,000 a year is tied to state certification and requires
a full-time director.
There are also full-year commitments, long-range advertising and
grants to consider.
Dates associated with various cross-involved governmental
entities include the city's fiscal year, beginning May 1; the
bureau's fiscal year, coinciding with the state of Illinois on July
1; and the county's fiscal year, beginning Dec 1. Budgets and
yearlong grants were primary concerns.
There had been no indication as to when the city might claim the
tax, but with the Lincoln fiscal year beginning May 1, there was a
concern that might be when the change might begin.
O'Donohue said the potential that the city might claim the tax is
only a budgetary matter right now because the fiscal year budget is
now being prepared. The issue has not been brought before the
council yet, and he was certain the city would not be prepared to
act on it by May 1, if the council did decide for it. "We have not
even gotten into budget discussions yet," he said.
He felt certain that if the city were to decide to claim that
tax, it would go on the appropriations budget for possibly being
initiated later in the year, but he felt certain that it would not
take place on May 1.
Much later in the meeting, O'Donohue was asked for, and he
agreed, that he would try to get a commitment that if the city would
decide to claim this tax, it would not begin May 1, but possibly Dec
1, when the county fiscal year begins.
As the status of the bureau is unknown, Ladd said that a number
of events, planning and commitments that affect the full year have
been put on hold, including the tourism's annual breakfast, several
ad campaigns, not hiring for a position that was open and other
long-range budget-related matters.
Getting to the heart of the matter as to why the city would be
considering this action, O'Donohue said it wasn't so much that the
city didn't feel represented, "but that tourism is mostly being
funded by city motels and hotels and city businesses, and the city
council simply thinks it should have a little more say over that
money. There has been a disconnect between what the city council
defines tourism as and what the tourism bureau has defined tourism
Asked for the city's definition of tourism, O'Donohue responded:
"Money! Money being brought in from outside sources, from people
coming into this town and looking at our attractions and spending
He said there would be no argument that advertising and marketing
has been done by the bureau, but that "in our opinion" there has
been more in historic preservation instead of tourism.
He later explained that he agreed that preservation is part of
tourism, but that money needs to be generated from it for it to be
O'Donohue brought forward as an example, not being able to see a
direct accounting of "heads and beds" related to the people visiting
the covered wagon or Postville Courthouse sites and the actual
generation of tourism.
A bureau director spoke up: "Every project we do, we always ask,
'Heads and beds?' That is our consideration whenever we take on any
Ladd said: "We are not in the historic preservation business. If
you are referring to The Mill, that is operated by a separate
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In reviewing the city's current stance, O'Donohue admitted: "I am
one of the city council members interested in pulling tourism
in-house, but I am not the only city council member.
"We certainly will take responsibility for not expressing
concerns," he added and said that he would like to work toward
better communications on what the city desires toward tourism,
committing that he would continue to attend tourism meetings.
O'Donohue said he is a strong proponent of tourism. And in
response to a question by a bureau director, he said: "Do I think
that we might be able to work things out and the bureau continue to
exist the way it is? Yeah, I do. I wouldn't have come here tonight
if I didn't.
"I believe that tourism is a keystone for Lincoln. Now, I may not
agree with everyone in this room what equals tourism, but that
doesn't mean we can't figure it out."
With historic Route 66 and Looking for Lincoln taking off, and
the support of state and federal dollars, everyone agreed there are
great things to look forward to in the future for the area.
Ladd also mentioned the value gained through the Sports
Commission, with the Lincoln Park District and Atlanta each adding
four softball fields.
Barbara Stroud-Borth, who lives in Mount Pulaski, said to
O'Donohue: "If you take this over for the city of Lincoln, with the
focus only being on the city of Lincoln, the rest of us are kind of
left out. I think there's a great loss if this board would cease to
exist in the present form for the whole county."
She added that she valued what she has seen the bureau able to do
in working together and pointed out that her perspective comes from
another place; she didn't grow up here and has lived in other
Andy Anderson said: "I think what's important to remember is that
this is city money." He illustrated on behalf of the city: "If I'm
the person with $150,000, I want a return on my investment. And if I
don't get a return, I want to know why."
O'Donohue said: "The city is here to build a relationship with
the bureau. I want to work with you and bring people to the city."
Gleason recommended making the city liaison a voting member of
the bureau. A motion to that effect was made and passed unanimously.
Bill Hoagland, Main Street Lincoln executive director, urged
board members to demonstrate to the bureau's new friend the value we
have in the county and in the city. "I see this as an opportunity,
and what you make of the opportunity will dictate what will happen
down the road," he said.
Peggy Lee asked that the city look at the strategic plan and the
budget and where the city of Lincoln has funds budgeted. She also
led a plan for a couple of directors to make a presentation to the
council on "what the bureau is and what we do."
April 9 was suggested as a tentative date for the bureau
The tourism bureau was formed in 1987 to promote tourism in the
county. It operates under a board of 15 directors. Directors are
approved by the Logan County Board and represent all areas of the
county. The board employs an executive director position, currently
filled by Geoff Ladd.
Ladd explained that by state statute, the county or city has the
right to claim the hotel-motel taxes, but the municipality has first
rights to those businesses within its limits.
The county collects 5 percent sales tax from hotels and motels.
Of that amount, the bureau receives a 4 percent tax, Main Street Lincoln
gets a quarter percent, Looking for Lincoln gets a quarter percent,
and the remaining one-half percent goes to historic sites, which is
decided once a year at the discretion of the county board during
The tourism bureau received $134,540 from hotel-motel taxes in
2011, up nearly 30 percent since 2006, which is for the most part
attributed to tourist visits. Most of those businesses are located
in Lincoln. There is one hotel in Atlanta and occasional
With a budget of $194,000 for 2012-13, approximately 75 percent
of the tourism bureau's funding is from tax revenues collected by
hotels and motels. The taxes are passed through the Logan County
Board to the agency and used to promote tourism in the county.
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