Of the Keizertimes

The Keizer Chamber of Commerce won’t get  dollars raised to fund tourism and the city’s two neighborhood associations will not get expense money in the coming budget.

The Keizer Budget Committee voted not to give $11,500 in hotel-motel taxes to the Keizer Chamber and $1,100 for neighborhood associations to send out mailings and cover expenses. The committee approved the budget Tuesday night, sending the recommendation on to the Keizer City Council.

A counteroffer from the West Keizer Neighborhood Association for $200 was also shot down.

But the chamber will not be asked to pick up costs for police patrol during the Iris Festival parade. City Manager Chris Eppley had proposed that the chamber pay police overtime costs associated with parade patrol, and that organizers of the Good Vibrations motorcycle rally do the same.

The budget committee voted to set aside $7,000 to cover these costs, taking $5,800 from contingency funds and recovering the remainder from cutting neighborhood association and volunteer recognition funds.

Chamber officials made the case last week that cutting the hotel-motel tax revenues from their coffers could hurt efforts to lure tourists into town.

The city of Keizer typically has kept about 60 percent of the tax collected from hotel guests – estimated at $59,400 this year – allocating 20 percent each to the chamber and Keizer Fire District. The chamber manages the Keizer Area Visitors Center.

A contingent of Chamber backers, including its president and executive director, urged the budget committee to reconsider the city manager’s recommendation that the city keep all the funds this year to balance its budget.

State law mandates the monies be used to promote tourism, but city officials believe they’re in the legal right keeping the money, in part because community center rentals bring more guests into town, the city manager said last week.

“Statistically if you take away a marketing budget from any entity it will collapse,” countered Rick Day, a chamber board member.

“The chamber takes this duty very seriously,” said Rich Duncan, the chamber’s president. “… The chamber believes strongly the visitor and tourism services they provide is a win-win and has a proven record of success.”

Duncan predicted revenues from hotel-motel tax could fall beyond what city leaders propose keeping.

Derik Milton, who sits on the chamber’s finance committee and board of directors, asked committee members to “look at the dollar ratios.”

JoAnne Beilke, a finance committee member and former Keizer Chamber tourism director, said the chamber fulfills the “service of answering all the calls that come in around the nation, and the emails that come in … about coming to Keizer, you know?”

Hotel-motel tax collections is projected to decline for the fourth straight year. Revenues fell from $79,710 in 2007-08 (ending June 30, 2008) to a projected $59,400 in 2010-11, and city finance officials project $57,700 in 2011-12.

It does, however, seem the decline is slowing. If the 2010-11 projection holds up, the decline of $1,790 (3 percent) between 2009-10 and 2010-11 is dramatically smaller than the prior two years’ decline. Revenues fell $10,793 (14 percent) between 2007-08 and 2008-09 and $7,727 (11 percent) between 2008-09 and 2009-10.

Regarding police time for parades, Eppley questioned why the city should be supporting the two events.

However, most of the budget committee didn’t agree, despite Police Chief Marc Adams’ assertion that there’s a “hierarchy of needs.”

“We’re cutting our ability to do investigations, we’re cutting training,” Adams said. … I agree we need to be there policing it but if this was Eugene, they don’t provide police free for parking patrol at Autzen Stadium.”

But Budget Chair Ron Bersin said residents expect the city to patrol parades.

“I think people expect the city to block the traffic off so they can enjoy the parade and be safe,” Bersin said.

Councilor David McKane says he plans to help raise much of the funds needed to pay for patrolling the Good Vibrations parade.