December 1, 2009 in City

County rebuffed on funding Fox

Board objects to using hotel-motel taxes
By The Spokesman-Review

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 – is illegal, the county’s Hotel Motel Tax Advisory Board told county commission Chairman Todd Mielke on Monday.

The advisory board balked at the 2010 budget proposal 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 Visitors Bureau will see its payment cut from $275,000 to $250,000. The Spokane Regional Sports 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 fall as projected.

Representatives of the visitors bureau and the sports commission 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 the area to attend an event at the Fox stay at hotels in the city, members of the board said.

Mielke said the county originally planned to contribute about $160,000 from the general fund to the Fox renovation effort in 2007. It set aside the money, but the Fox board never made the formal application, so the money was withdrawn at the end of the year.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. As a compromise, 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, asked why the Fox got a long-term commitment from the fund when other recipients have to make yearly applications.

Mielke said he’ll propose this week that the county give all the money to the Fox from the historic preservation fund and consider multiyear agreements with the visitors bureau and sports commission.

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