County wants more specifics on bed tax proposal

1/8/2013

By SCOTT AUST

By SCOTT AUST

saust@gctelegram.com

The ongoing discussion about how to use future, non-budgeted additional bed tax revenue is headed back to the Finney County Convention and Visitors Bureau after the county commission decided by consensus Monday that a proposed change to the ordinance by the CVB isn't acceptable.

Currently, the bed tax ordinance says "funds shall be expended only for convention and tourism promotion."

Several months ago, the Finney County Economic Development Corp. asked that the ordinance be changed so any funds generated that exceeded the CVB annual budget would go into a special fund the county commission could use when necessary for incentives to attract business and industry to the community.

The commission told the CVB and FCEDC to discuss the matter and propose a change to accomplish the desired effect.

The proposed new language said funds in excess of the CVB annual budget could be spent "for other investments that promote the general welfare of Finney County, including the attraction of industry."

Randy Partington, county administrator, told the commission the proposed change doesn't accomplish anything. He said he sent the CVB an email explaining that since the CVB is now a part of the county, the county sets a budget and any revenue collected that exceeds the budget is kept in a county fund until the following year. Unless a specific need was identified, the CVB could not access the excess funds unless the county commission republished its budget.

While the county approved $800,000 for the CVB in the county budget, it hasn't approved the actual proposed 2013 CVB budget, and won't until the CVB and FCEDC come back to the county with a bed tax proposal.

"I think what they're doing is trying to tie it all up so none of it goes to economic development," Commissioner Cliff Mayo said.

In a follow up conversation, Partington said he will inform the CVB that it needs to provide more specifics of how it would want excess funds to be used, and that the commission will wait to see what is proposed.

Lynn Schoonover, CVB director, was not present for the portion of the commission meeting when the bed tax was discussed, which came during a portion of the meeting devoted to reports. The bed tax was not listed as an individual item on the published agenda.

When contacted later Monday, Schoonover said she would have to talk to Partington to find out what was discussed. Though both the CVB and the FCEDC proposed language changes, the differences between the two were minor, she said.

"I think we're going to have to go back to the drawing board, then," Schoonover said. "We'll see what we need to do to make wording that's comfortable for everyone. We still feel economic development is extremely viable for our community, and tourism is viable, and we want to work together."

The next CVB board meeting is at 1 p.m. Thursday, Schoonover said.

In other business Monday:

* Commissioners authorized the chairman to sign an addendum to the agreement with Garden City Community College for selling the Horse Palace that says ownership won't transfer later than March 1. The addendum was sought by the college to allow for a 40-day protest period under the law.

The county is selling the Horse Palace to the college for $1. The county originally bought the facility, which is used for high school and college rodeos and various general indoor horse events, in 1989 from Southwest Horse, Inc.

Bill McNeill, fair board president, talked to the commission on Monday just to make sure the fair would be able to access the Horse Palace as it has done in past years. Commissioners said the college will continue to offer the same arrangements as in the past, but events need to be scheduled through them instead of the county.

"They want to do upgrades that we really didn't want to do because we wanted to put more into the exhibition building. We have every assurance they're going to continue the arrangements," Commissioner Don Doll said.

*Commissioners approved a request for $5,800 to pay Manhattan-based CivicPlus, which specializes in building city and county e-government communication systems and also built the county's website, to conduct a three-day training session for county employees in various departments to learn how to update content on department pages on the county website.

Randy Partington, county administrator, said a previous social media proposal with New Boston Creative Group is no longer being pursued, but several department heads asked for some kind of training that would allow their employees to update website content themselves.

*Commissioners approved a written county safety policy prepared by Finney County Emergency Management. A trends study performed last year covering nine years of accidents or incidents involving county employees, and observations of current employee safety practices concluded a written policy was necessary due to many avoidable accidents and incidents, a lack of employees using appropriate protective gear, non-enforcement of industry safety standards or best practices by supervisors, and no investigations, cause analysis or corrective actions taking place after incidents, according to a summary given to the commission by Michael Paz-Torres, emergency management coordinator.

*Commissioners approved a statement of support for the juvenile detention center to receive an increase of 6 cents per lunch meal to feed youth at the center. The statement was required so the JDC could continue to receive funds through the National School Lunch and School Breakfast programs via the Kansas State Department of Education.

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