Events upset over bed tax funds

Recommendations give most less money than a year ago

Corvettes line Whiskey Row during the Prescott Corvette Club’s Annual All Corvette Car Show in downtown Prescott. (File photo)

Corvettes line Whiskey Row during the Prescott Corvette Club’s Annual All Corvette Car Show in downtown Prescott. (File photo)

The prospect of a $3,700 drop in grant funding from the City of Prescott did not sit well with organizers of the annual Corvette Car Show this week.

In a sometimes-heated discussion on Tuesday, Aug. 8, the Prescott City Council considered the annual bed-tax allocations that go to help local events.

Ultimately, the council chose to delay a decision on the grant amounts to allow for adjustments in three of the allocations.

Driving this week’s discussion was the disappointment of organizers of the Corvette Car Show, which is scheduled to take place in downtown Prescott in September.

While the event received $3,900 in a bed-tax allocation from the city in 2016, the recommended amount for the organization this year was $200.

Organizers Jerry Jones and Louie Gomez appeared before the council to question that reduction.

“This year, we got clobbered with it, and it was a surprise,” Jones, chairman of the car show committee, said of the city’s policy. Even so, he added, “We’re big boys, and we can handle it.”

But Gomez took the city to task for the decrease in funding, maintaining that the event could easily be moved to another community.

“We don’t need your $200,” Gomez told the council. “We can move (the show).”

He cautioned, however, that a move out of the city would have an economic impact on Prescott. “We fill every hotel in the tri-city area,” Gomez said, adding that 7,000 to 10,000 people attend.

Each year, the club uses the money from the city to cover costs such as event barricades and porta-johns, Gomez said. With proceeds from the Corvette Car Show regularly going to charity, he said, “Money we don’t get from you guys is money we don’t give to charities.”

For years, the city has allocated a portion of its bed tax revenues (generated by a tax on hotel and motel customers) to help local events.

City Community Outreach Manager John Heiney explained that recommendations were made based on review by the city’s Tourism Advisory Committee (TAC).

A city memo stated that “TAC grants are intended to provide support specifically for marketing and promotional efforts.” It added that the committee “followed the guidelines to the letter this year.”

Therefore, the memo stated, “Organizations that projected a small marketing budget were awarded a lower amount, even if they were awarded more in the past.”

But council members questioned whether the strict adherence to the policy was the best approach.

“Are we results-oriented, or are we form-oriented?” asked Councilman Steve Sischka, suggesting that this year’s recommendations may have followed the letter of the policy more than the policy’s spirit.

Councilman Greg Lazzell agreed, maintaining that the city “’pantsed’ this organization because they didn’t know the procedure.”

Heiney pointed out that two other events – the PAAC (Prescott Antique Auto Club) Car Show, and Wild Lights (Heritage Park Zoo) – were also affected by the strict adherence to the policy. The PAAC car show was recommended to receive $1,500, while Wild Lights was recommended for $350 (down from $2,000 in 2016).

The council agreed that city staff should adjust the recommendations to reflect the organizations’ grant-request amounts, and bring the new recommendations back at the next council meeting Aug. 29.

Members of the TAC stressed that they had been trying to follow direction from the council.

For instance, TAC member Margo Christensen told the council, “We heard it loud and clear that we needed to follow the procedure.” And TAC member Tim Graham said he attended the council’s discussion last year, and “The message was sent out that we shouldn’t be funding well-established events.”

Councilwoman Billie Orr pointed out that those involved knew that changes were needed. “John Heiney and the TAC have said from the get-go that this needs to be redone to be a little more results-oriented. They were just going by policy,” she said.

In all, the council was considering contributions totaling $25,350 to about 10 local events. That was down from the $40,000 that was awarded in 2016. Three events, the Bluegrass Festival, Boot Drop and Highland Games, were recommended to receive slightly more money this year than last.