County to revise bed tax resolution

3/5/2013

By SCOTT AUST

By SCOTT AUST

saust@gctelegram.com

The charter resolution that spells out how Finney County's 6 percent transient guest tax is used is headed for a revision designed to create a way for bed tax funds collected by local hoteliers to be used for economic development purposes instead of solely for convention and tourism, county commissioners decided Monday.

Last week, the county Convention and Visitors Bureau board agreed to put a $45,000 line item in its 2013 budget earmarked for the county's economic development group to use, but the current bed tax resolution does not allow funds to be used that way.

For more than six months, the CVB and Finney County Economic Development Corp. have talked about how future additional bed tax revenue that exceeds CVB's budget could be held in reserve by the county commission to use for potential economic development incentives.

Commissioner Roman Halbur said the county needs to get the resolution changed, figure out what's allowed under state law, and determine how the county wants to use the money.

"We need to have a resolution set up so that it allows the access of those funds and explains how those funds can be withdrawn," Halbur said.

While CVB put $45,000 in its budget for economic development, that number may not end up being the amount the county commission agrees to.

"I think we should just set a percentage," Commissioner Larry Jones said. "Say this amount goes to CVB, this amount goes to economic development."

Commissioner Cliff Mayo agreed the resolution should be changed but at some point the commission also needs to address the funding level. Mayo said he won't accept the $45,000 budgeted because he doesn't think it is enough money.

Randy Partington, county administrator, said under home rule, the county is able to make a determination on how the money is used. Currently, the resolution states bed tax funds are to be used for convention and tourism purposes. Partington suggested changing the resolution to include language about allowing funds to be used for economic development incentives or economic development activity.

Commissioners directed Partington to work with county counselor Tom Burgardt on drafting the necessary language.

The changed resolution would also address where money would be deposited.

Instead of allowing CVB to send money directly to FCEDC, the county discussed depositing those funds into an economic development incentives fund that the county and Garden City jointly contribute funds to each year.

Partington said the fund, which currently contains about $740,000, consists of about $500,000 from the sale of industrial park land to TP&L last year, and contributions the past couple of years from the city and the county. The county's share is $125,000 while Garden City budgets more than $60,000 for the incentive fund.

The money is separate from the FCEDC's operating funds. FCEDC can request money from the incentive fund when needed for recruiting a specific prospect, Partington said.

Representatives of CVB and FCEDC supported the county's decision.

Lona DuVall, FCEDC president, said economic development has always supported county control of accessing funds and would prefer coming to the county when a specific need arises.

"We do not want the money in our possession. It is your money, your taxing authority. We feel the best way to handle that is for the taxing authority to hold those dollars and use them for what you feel is the betterment of the community," she said.

Larry Johnson, interim CVB director, said the understanding has been that money would go into a fund both groups could access by coming to the commission.

"And we're fine with that," he said.

In other business Monday:

* State Rep. John Doll provided commissioners with an update of legislative activity.

In addition to several bills that could affect county revenue, Doll said another issue he is keeping an eye on is renewable energy standards.

The state decided in 2009 to adopt standards requiring utilities to have 20 percent of energy capacity coming from renewable energy sources by 2020.

Doll said there was a push to remove those standards in the legislature this year. The senate defeated a bill that would have postponed the deadline to implement the standards and the house bill was sent back to the committee level for more discussion.

Doll opposes getting rid of renewable energy standards, because in the future the area could see more green energy jobs, pointing out that Finney County is home to Conestoga Energy Partners ethanol plant.

"If green energy gets big, we could have some secondary industry come in with it, which could be significant. Anything we can do to bring more manufacturing out here would be a positive for western Kansas. It gives us an opportunity to spread our portfolio a little more," Doll said.

* The commission approved a $71,304 from Com-Tec for security cameras at the Southwest Regional Juvenile Detention Center.

Katrina Pollet, JDC director, said federal law mandates security cameras be installed in all areas of the facility that youth or the public can enter. She said Com-Tec's bid was about $30,000 less than the other two companies' bids because the facility already has some Com-Tec equipment that can easily be tied into. The others would have needed to buy new equipment, or enter a licensing agreement with Com-Tec.

* The commission approved the distribution of 2013 alcohol tax funds received for parks and recreation activities. The following organizations received funding: Garden City Recreation Commission, $5,000; Finney County Babe Ruth Association, $4,000; Southwest Grapplers Wrestling Club, $2,500; City of Holcomb, $2,000; Finney County Public Library Nature Classroom, $2,000; Garden City Razzles, $2,000; Havoc Pride, $2,500; Garden City Extreme Basketball, $2,000; Southwest KAOS, $2,500; Stepping it Up Program, $2,000.

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