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Local Option Tax Commission (LOT) Chairman Jim Bockelman presented the March 3rd meeting of the Salmon City Council with the commission’s 2010 draft budget.

Bockelman said the budget is a recommendation as to what amounts of income from the option tax should be spent in each targeted area.

The LOT Commission based its budget on an expectation of approximately $70,000. Of that total the commission allocated $10,000 to the swimming pool, $5,000 for city promotion, development and visitor information, $15,000 to special events such as Salmon River Days, the Salmon Marathon and the High School District Rodeo, $10,000 for economic growth and advertising, $10,000 to recreational opportunities, $2,000 for administration expenses and recommended that $18,000 be placed in a reserve fund during this first year of the Local Option Tax program.

Bockelman said the commission felt it was better to put the left over money in a reserve fund rather than into the Property Tax Relief stated in the ordinance and City Attorney John McKinney agreed. McKinney said that is a proper avenue to take since no one can estimate as yet exactly how much money will be generated by the lodging tax. “A contingency fund or emergency fund is ok until we know what we’re getting, so we have some protection.” He said after the first nine months there will be a better idea as to what the budget will be.

Bockelman said the draft budget is ‘not cast in stone’ and that room was left for the money to be used where needed. A public hearing will be held prior to formal adoption of a final budget.

The first two funding requests to the LOT Commission have come from the Salmon Valley Chamber of Commerce. The organization has asked for $2000 to be put towards Salmon River Days July 4th celebration. The money would be used for parade prizes, security, electricity for the vendors, event coordination and to expand activities so that more people will be interested in coming to Salmon. The commission recommended the request be approved and later in the meeting the City Council passed a motion to accept LOT’s tentatively proposed budget and the Chamber’s $2,000 request.

The second request put forth by the Chamber was for $6000 to be used towards this year’s Salmon Marathon. The subject opened several topics that were debated at length by the council.

Mayor John Miller stated the city will absorb costs for public services related to the Marathon since it promotes tourism and recreation for the town. City Finance Director Amy Fealko presented a figure of $1,800 in overtime paid to city employees during last year’s marathon. She said that since one of the ideas behind the option tax was to promote more events and draw more visitors, as the event numbers grow along with services demands city departments could easily go over their budgets.

Councilman Ken Gutzman said it is his position that if any event requires overtime the event itself should pay for that overtime since the city has no way to budget when it doesn‘t know what future events will develop. Councilman Leo Marshall commented that if police services are included in the Chamber’s event budget then the city is not paying for those services, the organization is. This being the third year of the marathon Salmon Police Chief Jim Spain has a track record of costs involved. He informed the council that hours spent on the day of the marathon are already factored into his department’s 2010 budget as are the costs of annual parades. He said that expenses involving future events are of course an unknown.

Bockelman said the LOT Commission also feels an event, not the city taxpayers, should pay for all expenditures including any public services required. He said the marathon is a good model for needed services and the commission feels it is a very worth while event for the community. Bockelman said a Chamber representative will meet with the council for verification.

The Local Option Tax Commission will meet in the Salmon Valley Center meeting Room at 5:30 PM on March 23rd. The meetings are open to the public and Bockelman urged anyone who has events or projects within the scope of option tax monies to, “Get busy and make some requests because that’s what this fund is about.”

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