Local Tourism Bureau gets a boost in fundingEveryone got a little of what they were looking for in the 2009 room tax allocation plan adopted by the Hudson City Council on Dec. 15.
By: Randy Hanson, Hudson Star-Observer
Everyone got a little of what they were looking for in the 2009 room tax allocation plan adopted by the Hudson City Council on Dec. 15.
The Hudson Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau saw its percentage of the room tax boosted from 50 percent in 2008 to a promised 60 percent in 2009.
And while some community organizations and city programs had their allocations reduced, none of them had their support completely eliminated.
The biggest cut was in funding for the Hudson Hockey Association, which went from $10,000 in 2008 to $2,500 in 2009.
Mayor Dean Knudson said the grant to the hockey association was never intended to be permanent, but was temporary support to help the association expand its facility -- the Hudson Sports & Civic Center at 1820 Hanley Road.
Youth Action Hudson (formerly Community Action) and Big Brothers Big Sisters were the other biggest losers. Both organizations will receive half the support in 2009 that they got in 2008.
YAH’s allocation will drop to $2,500 next year, and Big Brothers Big Sisters, to $1,000.
All of the other organizations and programs that have gotten room tax dollars in the past saw smaller cuts -- or none at all.
The allocation for downtown holiday street lighting for 2009 was boosted to $6,000 from the previous $4,000.
Funding for Booster Days fireworks ($10,000), downtown flower baskets ($3,000), the Hot Air Affair celebration ($2,500), the Miss Hudson program ($2,500) and the Hudson VFW post ($1,000) was left at its 2008 level.
Organizations and programs that will experience modest cuts in funding for 2009 include The Phipps Center for the Arts (from $8,000 in 2008 to $7,000 in 2009), Lakefront Park summer concerts (from $5,700 to $5,000), city banners ($5,000 to $4,000), the St. Croix County Historical Society (from $5,000 to $4,500), the Hudson Area Senior Citizens Center (from $4,550 to $4,500) and the Willow River Cemetery Association (from $5,000 to $4,500).
Support for the Hudson Area Chamber of Commerce and Tourism Bureau will increase to $91,200 in 2009 from $74,550 in 2008.
Of that amount, $88,700 is designated for the tourism promotion, compared to $60,000 in 2008.
The city is estimating that it will take in $152,000 next year from its 3 percent room tax.
The dues the city pays for membership in the Chamber of Commerce will drop to $2,500 in 2009. In 2008, the city paid $7,800 in Chamber dues.
Knudson said the 2009 dues are comparable to what a business with the number of employees that the city has would pay. The city had been paying more than the usual dues as a way of subsidizing the Chamber, he said.
The hour-and-a-half debate on the 2009 room tax allocation began with a presentation by Chamber President Kim Heinemann.
Alderpersons Scot O’Malley and Lee Wyland had asked at the City Council’s Nov. 24 meeting for the Tourism Bureau to explain how it would use any increase in its room tax allocation.
Heinemann gave a brief history of the Hudson Chamber and the addition of the Tourism Bureau in 1987.
She noted that state law requires municipalities that adopted a room tax after 1994 to allocate 70 percent of the revenue for tourism promotion.
“Remember, this is using room tax revenue for what it is intended -- tourism promotion,” she said of the Tourism Bureau’s request for 70 percent of the revenue.
Heinemann said the Tourism Bureau was willing to reallocate money to The Phipps Center to keep it from losing any support.
She said state law specifies how room tax revenue can be used and requires designated tourism entities to report their spending.
The Hudson Tourism Bureau, Heinemann said, would use the additional money to increase the city’s visibility through ad campaigns in new markets.
It would also be spent on tourism brochures, Web site design and maintenance, and participation in tourism promoting events and organizations, she said.
Heinemann reported that Stillwater, Minn., allocates 95 percent of its 3 percent room tax for tourism promotion and River Falls devotes 90 percent of its 5 percent room tax for that purpose.
Stillwater’s 2008 tourism promotion budget was roughly $192,000, she said, and the River Falls budget was $82,200.
Former mayors speak
Former Hudson mayors Tom Redner and Jack Breault advocated on behalf of community organizations and programs in danger of losing room tax funding.
Redner said the city has a history of providing subsidies to community organizations that precedes its adoption of a room tax in 1987.
When he was mayor in 1994, he said, the city clerk would send a letter to organizations inviting them to apply for a room tax subsidy.
The subsidies, Redner said, “helped the citizens of Hudson and the city itself.”
“Are you going to eliminate the fireworks?” he asked rhetorically. “That is part of the uniqueness of Hudson.”
Redner said if the city ended the subsidy for the cemetery association it could end up having to pay for cemetery maintenance with property tax dollars.
Breault pleaded for the council not to make any drastic cuts in 2009 allocations.
He said the nonprofits already have their budgets set for next year and added, “At least wean them off.”
The council unanimously approved what Knudson said was his third draft of an allocation plan for 2009 after also hearing proposals put forward by alderpersons Lori Bernard and Wyland.