1. Call to Order. The workshop session of the Council of the City of Rogers was called to order by Acting Mayor Davis on Tuesday, January 26, 2010 at 6:00 p.m. at the Rogers Community Room,
Council present: Jay Bunting, Rob Bell, Jamie Davis, and Steve Rauenhorst.
Staff present: Stacy Doboszenski, Assistant City Administrator/Clerk; Jeff Luther, Police Chief, Steve Stahmer, City Administrator; and Lisa Wieland, Finance Director.
2. Overview of a Visitor Bureau – Creation of Lodging Tax
Administrator Stahmer introduced the topic of the meeting and Kathleen Poate of the I94 Chamber of Commerce.
Poate addressed the council providing background information on the request for the creation of a visitor’s bureau through a lodging tax. Poate introduced the Mayor of Buffalo, who has a visitor’s bureau along with a chamber member from Buffalo to discuss how a visitor’s bureau operates.
Davis questioned the percentages Poate used. 3% is the maximum allowed to tax.
Bunting asked if the request will include other cities within the chamber. Poate stated Albertville has already enacted a lodging tax. Poate stated they are trying to get the footprint of the chamber to participate.
Bell questioned where the revenues would be spent.
Sue from the Buffalo Chamber of Commerce addressed the council on the activities they do relating to their visitors bureau. Sue stated the bulk of the money generated is spent on advertising. Sue provided an explanation of how advertising dollars are spent.
Bell questioned who is specifically advertised. Stahmer stated the statute speaks to promoting tourism and conventions.
Sue continued to discuss the positives relating to a lodging tax and visitors bureau including the ability to be included on the Explore Minnesota website.
Davis commented on seeing this (lodging tax) benefit Cabela’s. There was discussion in the audience between Mr. O’Dell and Sue regarding who is paying for the tax.
Mr. O’Dell provided an explanation on the differences between Buffalo and Rogers. O’Dell stated he would like to hear more about who would make those determinations of where the money is spent.
The Mayor of Buffalo stated a tourism board is created to determine how the money is spent. The Buffalo Mayor stated that people staying at the hotels are not interested in what the lodging tax is. The Buffalo Mayor continued to discuss the positives about the creation of a lodging tax/visitors bureau/board of tourism.
Bunting asked Poate if there is any data from Albertville regarding the impact of the lodging tax.
Poate stated Albertville has not enacted their tax yet, just adopted the ordinance.
Wieland asked if the advertising revenues would be prorated based on the revenues generated from the communities involved.
Poate spoke on the make-up of the board and stated she would hope the governing body would be able to make those decisions.
Davis asked Mayor Fred from Buffalo if the $6000 generated is taking care of the additional staff resources that are being utilized to administer the lodging tax. Buffalo Mayor stated it does cover.
Wieland spoke on the amount of staff time that may be necessary.
Rauenhorst and Bell asked who is in charge of auditing. Wieland stated the city.
Bunting asked how much time is necessary to audit the hotels. Wieland stated in past experience it would typically take a few hours per hotel to get familiar with their books and be able to audit the records.
Steve Johnson (Super 8) spoke to the Council with concerns regarding the lodging tax. Johnson stated 25% of his business is from Rogers’ business people claiming one local business spends $60,000 with them annually. The lodging tax would cost them over $2000 annually. Johnson commented that he doesn’t know if Rogers is big enough or ready for it yet.
There was continued discussion on what would draw people to Rogers besides Cabela’s. Poate commented on other draws within the community. Poate stated she thinks the Council forgets what they have here because they live here. Poate continued to discuss the positives of having a local visitor’s bureau.
Bell asked if there is a way to do a cost benefit analysis to determine the benefit the community receives from initiating a lodging tax. Bell asked for information on studies done on other cities; a before and after picture.
Poate stated the University of Minnesota can conduct those studies, but they do charge.
Bell stated he wants to know the benefit that comes back to the community.
Wieland commented that any study would have to do a comparison of a city with a similar make-up to Rogers.
There was continued debate in the audience over creating a lodging tax.
Bell questioned the partnership with Albertville. How it works to have multiple cities funnel money into one tourism board. The estimates put together are just for Rogers? Poate stated yes. Including other cities, the estimate would be about $212,000.
Stahmer asked which cities? Poate stated the other cities would be Dayton, Rogers, Hassan, St. Michael, Albertville, and Otsego.
Rauenhorst asked how the other hotels feel about this. Poate stated the Hampton Inn and Sleep Inn are in favor of it. O’Dell stated he believes they are opposed to it.
Bell commented on the possibility of a lodging tax less than 3%.
There was discussion regarding instituting a lodging tax at something less than the proposed 3%.
Rauenhorst stated his issue is the idea of raising a tax stating he has a real problem with that. He would be more in favor of doing a referendum, put it to the people. More education is needed before making a decision.
Bell moved, Rauenhorst seconded a motion to adjourn the meeting at 6:51 p.m.