The Finney County Commission on Monday heard a series of budget requests from local agencies for 2019, including a few that increased over last year.

The Finney County Convention and Visitors Bureau requested about $881,227 in budget authority, reflecting a significant increase in transient tax dollars coming into Finney County. The CVB’s budget authority is derived exclusively from those tax dollars, as opposed to local general funds, and the request for 2019 marks an approximate increase of $74,000 from the $807,000 request for 2018.

While the CVB projects roughly $950,000 to come into the county in 2019, the agency officially projected $800,000 for 2017 and 2018. Still, CVB Executive Director Roxanne Morgan said revenues have “consistently” surpassed $900,000 in recent years, and excess revenues are used to supplement the budget of the following year.

“It’s a very, very good path that we’re on,” Morgan said.

Morgan’s budget application notes that the agency partnered in 73 events in 2017 that brought more than $4.8 million into Finney County. Overall, Morgan said during her report, visitors to Finney County spent $100 million in 2016, $11 million over 2015.

Tourism Economics, a third-party consulting agency contracted by both the CVB and the state for tourism analytics, usually produces results about a year and a half after the revenues come in, she said. She anticipates annual tourism revenues for 2017 going into 2018 to be equal to or greater than $100 million.

According to Morgan, 973 jobs are supported by the local leisure and hospitality industry, and more than 1,200 jobs are supported indirectly.

“The good thing about the Finney County Convention and Visitors Bureau is we cost nothing for the community,” Morgan said. “All of the dollars that we receive are from the transient tax, so the investments that we make are 100 percent returned to the county.”

Thus far in 2018, the county has received $346,120 in transient tax revenues, and $210,504 were collected by the county in revenues that exceeded the CVB’s budget authority in 2017 and have not yet been allocated.

Morgan noted that the CVB started 10 years ago with a budget of $286,000, reflecting a budget authority that has gradually tripled over the course of a decade with increased revenues.

Morgan attributed much of the CVB’s success to the community’s growing role as a host for international sporting events, such as the Garden City Charity Classic, that have drawn participants from more than 30 countries to Garden City.

According to Morgan, the CVB also has approximately $125,000 in “rainy day fund” reserves, which the agency keeps tucked away in case transient tax revenues drastically decline during any given year.

Meanwhile, the Finney County Economic Development Corp. is angling for more money to fund community projects intended to enhance the local quality of life, but their funds come directly from the four major taxing entities in Finney County: the City of Garden City, Finney County, Garden City Community College and the City of Holcomb.

This year, the FCEDC increased its funding requests to most of the local taxing agencies, raising its request to Finney County over last year by $15,000, from $150,000 for 2018 to $165,000 for 2019.

FCEDC President and CEO Lona DuVall said increased funding would be necessary for the continued growth of Finney County. The FCEDC has been working to rectify housing and childcare shortages as part of a larger effort to stimulate workforce development and local quality of life.

“I think you are all aware that we’ve been working very diligently on childcare, housing (and) workforce development,” DuVall told county commissioners, adding that continued progress on those fronts would require a larger investment by local taxing entities.

“We have to determine as residents that we’re willing to pay for those, and quite honestly, we can’t continue to grow at the rate we’ve been growing without supporting these really basic needs that our residents have, and that in turn our employees have,” DuVall said.

According to the application materials submitted by the FCEDC, the agency has contributed to the generation of more than 4,500 jobs in Finney County since 2011 and a $113 million increase to the county’s valuation.

The document indicates that FCEDC was directly responsible for more than $400 million of capital investment in Finney County in 2016 and 2017. The agency received $635,000 in funding from the four local taxing entities in that time, translating to a return on investment of about $630 for each dollar of investment in the agency.

DuVall also suggested exploring the possibility of using sales tax to enhance the FCEDC’s resources by repurposing the .15-cent sales tax dedicated to the creation and maintenance of HorseThief Reservoir after its scheduled sunset in 2021, a move that would require a community vote. The suggestion was first broached at the agency’s annual meeting in January.

She said it would be important for the taxing entities to maintain their direct investments in addition to any prospective sales tax revenues, “largely because we do show a direct impact on the taxable value at the county and each of the taxing entities there.”

“We think that the voters of Finney County (have) been very supportive of the HorseThief Reservoir obviously, and Finney County has contributed significant dollars to that project,” DuVall said. “I think if people were willing to do that for a facility that provides quality of life in a county outside of our own, I would like to think that they would be willing to provide that same level of support for quality of life impact in our own community.”

Under the proposal, the Finney County and City of Garden City governments would collect the money and distribute it as needed for FCEDC quality of life improvements after public consideration of the expenditures.

Three exceptions to that stipulation, according to the document, would be $100,000 distributed annually to the Finney County Childhood Early Learning Network, $50,000 distributed annually to the Great Plains MakerSpace to fund entrepreneurial activities, and $200,000 distributed annually to FCEDC for use in project and community development.

The FCEDC’s budget request from each taxing entity for 2019 totals $360,000, including $165,000 from Finney County, $155,000 from the City of Garden City, $28,000 from the City of Holcomb and $15,000 from Garden City Community College. For 2017, the FCEDC requested $150,000, $145,000, $25,000 and $15,000 from each agency, respectively.

The application materials indicate that the $25,000 allocated for 2018 by the City of Holcomb remains unpaid. Holcomb’s city government has called for lower contribution requests amid concerns that the amounts are disproportionate to the requests to Garden City on a per capita basis.

All budget requests were taken into advisement by the county commission and no other action was taken.

 

Contact Mark Minton at mminton@gctelegram.com.