Spokane County will have to come up with a new plan to give money to the renovated Fox Theater. The old plan, to take about $21,000 a year from the county’s share of the hotel-motel tax, isn’t legal, Board Chairman Todd Mielke was told Monday.
The county’s Hotel Motel Tax Advisory Board balked Monday at the budget for an estimated $405,000 the county expects to collect from the lodging tax. Collections are projected to be down, and the Spokane Convention and Visitor’s Bureau was told it would see its payment cut from $275,000 to $250,000, and the Spokane Regional Sport Commission would be frozen at $75,000.
Even with those reductions, the budget is expected to be almost $33,000 in the red if tax collections are down, as projected.
Representatives of the visitors bureau and the sports commission said they could deal with their allotments, but questioned the county’s plan to send $20,625 of the lodging tax collected in the unincorporated county to the Fox Theater, which is in the City of Spokane.
Dave Pier, a vice president of Brett Sports and member of the advisory board, said the county’s hotel tax money has to be spent on projects or events that generate business in the county lodging facilities.
“I love the Fox Theater,” Pier said. “But it doesn’t meet the fund’s requirements.”
Visitors who come to see events at the Fox stay at hotels in the city, advisory board members said.
Mielke said the county originally planned to give about $160,000 from the general fund to the Fox renovation in 2007. It set aside the money, but the Fox board never made the formal application so the offer was withdrawn at the end of the year. At that point, the Fox board said it had built that money into its budget, but the county didn’t have it available in the general fund. A majority of the commissioners voted to give the Fox about $40,000 a year for four years, half from a fund for historic preservation and half from the hotel-motel tax.
Eric Sawyer, executive director of the sports commission, also questioned why the Fox was getting a long-term commitment from the fund when other recipients have to make yearly applications.
“We go through this exercise every year, and we play by the rules,” Sawyer said. “It’s frustrating to have the county making a long-term commitment to the Fox.”
Mielke said he’ll propose this week that the county give all the money to the Fox from the historic preservation fund and consider multi-year agreements with the visitors bureau and sports commission.