Valleyfest eyes lodging tax money
Panel not looking favorably at event, which has secured nearly $20,000 from city
Once again, Valleyfest director Peggy Doering is waiting to hear whether her organization will receive any of Spokane Valley’s lodging tax funding.
Valleyfest asked for $40,000 from lodging taxes for festival marketing. As happened last year, the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee did not recommend Valleyfest for funding.
The City Council is scheduled to vote on the lodging tax allocation during its Dec. 13 meeting, leaving Doering hoping for another last-minute reprieve.
“We’re looking at what will happen if we don’t get funded,” Doering said. “I do know that we can’t advertise or market unless we find more sponsors. You need to market it to get people to come. We’re reviewing our budget very carefully right now.”
The Lodging Tax Advisory Committee recommends to the City Council how to spend the tax money collected from hotel room stays; the money must be used to promote tourism.
Last year, following the committee’s recommendation, the council defunded Valleyfest. It reconsidered a few months later during a second round of applications, awarding the festival $30,000.
Valleyfest also received $19,500 “outside agency” funding from the city for 2012, and has secured $19,368 from the city for 2013. Councilwoman Brenda Grassel, who heads the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee, said her impression was that money would also be used for marketing.
“We thought we were giving them the money they needed out of outside agency funding,” she said. “That’s where the discrepancy is. Economic development is not the role of Valleyfest. They’re a festival that is supposed to advertise the city.”
The argument against funding Valleyfest has been that the three-day community festival doesn’t generate hotel room nights, though state law does not make hotel bookings a requirement for funding.
Last year, Doering presented a survey of 218 Valleyfest attendees in 2011 that said about one-quarter of them said they stayed at a local hotel/motel or campground.
That information hasn’t been enough to sway the committee, Doering said. “They don’t believe me,” she said. “We try to work really hard with all the businesses, because there is an economic impact to businesses more than hotels in Spokane Valley.”
The room night revenue generated by Valleyfest pales in comparison to the money generated by conventions and sports events organized by Visit Spokane and the Spokane Regional Sports Commission, Grassel said. Those organizations are recommended to get $335,000 of the $380,500 in funding.
“It’s not a matter of did they generate room nights,” Grassel said of Valleyfest. “We’ve always known they generated several room nights. The discussion that’s been and always has been is the amount of room nights.”
Other organizations recommended for funding are the HUB Sports Center, the Spokane County Fair and Expo Center and the Spokane Valley Heritage Museum.
Grassel noted that she recommended giving Valleyfest $6,000, a smaller amount than she recommended last year. “It’s been a funding source that was supposed to be seed money until they grew and got off the ground,” she said. “Instead they keep coming back for more.”
Doering calls the situation “disheartening.”
“I look at the budget and it makes my stomach sink,” she said. “It’s a lot of money. I am concerned. I’m actually very concerned.”