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Local Option Tax Commission reports to the City Council are now being made at the first council meeting of the month so that funding requests can be expedited.

The commission moved its regular meeting date from the fourth Tuesday to the third Tuesday of the month to allow more preparation time for the reports and requests presented to the City Council. The new scheduling will also help the commission with knowing more precisely how much money is available for project funding.

LOT Commission President Jim Bockelman outlined a number of other changes being made for the purpose of more efficiency. He said City Clerk Mary Benton will be assisting with documentation of all funding requests brought before the commission and she will help to organize all past LOT documents, putting them in order and making them more easily accessible. In addition, from now on all agendas, meeting minutes, requests and financial reports will be emailed to commission members rather than distributed in person.

City Finance Director Amy Fealko has created a new LOT Reimbursement form that will be used to disperse LOT funds. The form will also act as the ‘final report’ and it must be completed before approved funds can be received.

Bockelman said Commission member BeBe Dodds is putting together a LOT Workshop. The workshop will focus on the mechanics of how to go about applying for LOT funding. It will be offered to the public sometime in September.

Bockelman said according to a report from commission member Bob Daniels LOT has a total of $24,000 available to fund projects for the rest of this fiscal year.

Bockelman said the commission is addressing the public concern that LOT has become the ‘Sugar Daddy’ for events that have managed to exist for years without LOT but are now becoming dependent on it. It also discussed public criticism related to the misconception that LOT was created to develop new ideas for community promotion and events. Bockelman said that is not the LOT Commission’s mission. “It is stated that LOT is not the engine for the driving of new ideas and the commission can only deal with what comes their way.” He said it is up to the community, associations and organizations to develop new ideas and new events. Bockelman said, “It’s not our responsibility, the LOT, to come up with what’s going to be presented to us. It’s that which comes from the community.”

He said it is also not the function of LOT to fill the needs of lodging groups during the off season. Bockelman said LOT was designed for the collection of a four percent occupancy tax, which it is doing. The commission of nine members develops a budget and makes recommendations to the City Council as to how the LOT revenues should be dispersed. Bockelman said that the task of new and innovative ideas belongs to entities like the Chamber of Commerce as well as the businesses that stand to profit from expanding tourism. He said, “Although those businesses can probably not come to LOT directly for funding, [commercial-profit-based] they can come up with a plan and then work with the Chamber of LCEDA for help or possible funding.” He asked council members to remember exactly what the Local Option Tax is and what the commission’s responsibilities are, when they hear complaints that the LOT not doing its job.

Bockelman said since the beginning the LOT Commission has struggled with the concept that when LOT funds are used as seed-money for a fund raising event perhaps some percentage of the funds raised should be returned to LOT, especially if the fund raiser is successful. Bockelman said discussions on that subject will continue.

The next LOT Commission meeting is set for August 16 at 5:30 PM in the Salmon Valley Center meeting room.
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