Wednesday, May 15, 2013
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Aldermen asked to review list of tourism expectations

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[May 15, 2013]  Tuesday evening during the Lincoln City Council committee of the whole, aldermen were given a list of potential expectations for the Abraham Lincoln Tourism Bureau of Logan County.

Mayor Keith Snyder was absent for the evening; thus, Melody Anderson was serving as mayor pro tem. She told the council the list of expectations was the result of discussions by Snyder, city administrator Sue McLaughlin, Tom O'Donohue and herself.

She asked the council to review the list of expectations and if there were any suggestions for additions to the list, to bring those to the attention of the committee.

The following is a copy of the document handed out in council chambers:

Tourism expectations:

  • The chief elected official of the entity imposing the tax (the county board chairman in the case of the county board and the mayor in the case of the City Council) should appoint the members of the Tourism Board, if there is one, with those appointments confirmed by the legislative body of the entity (the county board or the City Council, as the case may be). That way there is an elected official and an elected body accountable for the results of the imposed tax.

  • The Tourism Board, if there is one, should be of a reasonable size (no more than eleven), must include an appropriate number of representatives of the City of Lincoln and at least two members representing the hotel industry, and must have appropriate term limits on its membership (to ensure adequate turnover and fresh ideas).

  • The Tourism agency must have an updated and periodically reviewed job description for each employee of the agency and must at least annually evaluate the performance of each employee against that job description. If a particularly position is funded with any portion of the hotel/motel tax, the description for that position must include a delineation of the specific duties of that position that will be focused on promoting additional overnight hotel stays.

  • The agency must provide an annual operating plan that outlines activities for the upcoming year, that describes those planned activities broken down by visitors (those coming and spending a day) and overnight guests (those spending one or more nights in a local hotel), and that reports on the results of the prior year's operating plan.

  • Included in that operating plan, the agency should, for each piece of significant property it owns (e.g., the covered wagon, the Mill, etc.), detail an annual capital projects plan that outlines annual maintenance/upkeep costs, any improvements planned for the property for that year, any expected costs to finish developing that property, an annual operating plan for the property, and a thorough description of how each of those costs will be provided.

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  • As part of that operating plan, the Tourism agency must define and report its level of involvement with each and every event supported by the agency. Possible levels of involvement might include: "Donor" (where the agency simply contributes a financial amount to the event); "Participating Sponsor" (where the agency contributes financial and has staff and/or board members volunteer at the event); "Host" (where the agency plans, raises funds for, and executes the event).

  • As part of the operating plan, the Tourism agency must define, begin tracking, and over time improve the agency's Return on Investment ("ROI") for the hotel/motel taxes received by the agency.

  • Applications for funding from the agency must include a section where the applicant details how the event will boost overnight hotel stays and how the applicant will track and report the overnight stays generated by the event.

Earlier this year, the city of Lincoln began exploring the possibility of taking over the hotel-motel tax revenues that are currently being collected by the county. By law, the tax collected on room fees is submitted to the state by motel operators. The state in turn distributes the funds back to the entity that is set up to receive it, which currently is Logan County.

The city has the right to claim the tax revenue generated by all the hotels or motels within city limits. It is expected that this could generate more than $150,000 a year for the city. The money would have to be used to promote tourism, but would not necessarily have to be given to a tourism bureau.

The city recently expressed dissatisfaction with the performance of the tourism bureau, and discussions have gone so far as to include whether or not the bureau might cease to exist. The city does not have the authority to dissolve the bureau, but they do have the authority to claim the hotel-motel tax that in part funds the bureau.

During discussions in the council chambers in recent weeks, it was expressed by Anderson that perhaps the bureau isn't living up to the city's expectations because they have not had sufficient guidance from the city.

As a result, the committee of four was formed to outline those expectations.


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