Some changes are being made this year in how a portion of the Transient Occupancy Tax revenue collected from visitors to motels and resorts will be divvied up among recipients that use the funds to advertise and promote Trinity County as a tourist destination.
Also known as the hotel or bed tax, the TOT revenues are fairly stable, according to County Administrative Officer Richard Kuhns who said the county has “seen a bump from time to time” due to fires when Cal Fire rented all the rooms for an extended period. The tax rate remains at 5 percent, believed to be among the lowest in California.
TOT revenue totaled $219,228 in 2017/18 and $187,178 in 2018/19. In the 2019/20 county budget proposal, TOT/hotel tax revenue is estimated at $210,000 for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2020.
The Trinity County Fair receives an annual allocation of $25,000, except last year when the total was $40,000 including a one-time reimbursement for a 2008/09 fiscal year reduction the Fair agreed to when the county was struggling financially.
Last week’s action by the Board of Supervisors approved the distribution of $75,000 in revenue among seven other recipients based on percentages received in the past. The TOT funds are discretionary revenue with the remainder going into the county’s general fund.
Over the past six years, the county has contracted with the Trinity County Chamber of Commerce to provide a portion of the TOT revenue to promote and advertise Trinity County and provide funds to the other organizations as stipulated by contract. In the first five years, the contract provided for a percentage of TOT received, posing what Kuhns said are potential budgeting issues for all organizations receiving money under the contract, though the contract was originally designed to stabilize the amounts each group received.
For the 2018/19 fiscal year, the county entered into an agreement to provide a flat amount to the Chamber to be split among the groups based on the percentages set out in the prior contract.
With the expiration of last year’s contract, the Trinity County Chamber of Commerce, which now operates its tourism-related activities out of a separate Trinity County Visitors and Development Bureau, requested the county to cut individual checks to each organization rather than one big one for the Bureau to distribute which bumped that organization up a tier in reporting requirements.
CAO Kuhns noted that each organization is receiving an increase over previous years. Last year’s total for advertising/promotion was $62,000 and it was $57,207 the year before that.
Distribution of $75,000 approved by the board last week was as follows: Trinity County Visitors and Development Bureau, 31.52 percent; Trinity County Historical Society, 35.96 percent; Weaverville Chamber of Commerce, 3.41 percent; Hayfork Chamber of Commerce, 3.41 percent; Trinity County Arts Council, 18.46 percent; Humboldt Trinity Recreation Alliance, 1.9 percent; Trinity County Information Services (Visitor Center), 5.34 percent.
“We met with each group’s representatives and negotiated this out. In the end, everybody was in agreement that it is fair and equitable. Normally, we sent one check and it would be distributed, but now, we send each organization half of their allocation with the requirement that they share their annual report with the board in a timely manner to get the second check,” Kuhns said.
The county is looking at a different way of using TOT funds in the future, he added, “potentially making it more of a grant-based funding source where each year the organization will be required to present proposals to the county, and the county will award based on the best proposal for promotion and advertisement of Trinity County.”
Asked by an audience member to clarify the former Trinity County Chamber’s role, Chamber president and Visitors Bureau secretary Kelli Gant responded with an explanation of the organization’s recent evolution into two tasks: a traditional Chamber role that focuses on supporting local businesses and recruiting new ones; and a marketing arm she said has been stagnant because there’s been no funding.
With the inflow of TOT revenue, she said the marketing branch will now be able to gear up for advertising campaigns and trade show participation without any overhead expenses of maintaining an office and phone.
Trinity County Information Services is another new name on the list. It is a new nonprofit organization formed in the past year to keep Visitor Center services running “and support tourism once they get here. We provide them with brochures and send out other visitor information on request,” said President Travis Finch.
Sup. John Fenley thanked all “for moving Trinity County in a dynamic new direction,” and the board’s vote approving the agreement as proposed was unanimous.