Mammoth Lakes Town Council voted unanimously on Wednesday to pass a resolution that “formally states the Council’s intention to establish the Tourism [Business] Improvement District (TBID).”
The TBID proposes to levy a 1.5% assessment on gross monthly revenue of restaurants and retail, a 1% assessment on gross monthly lodging revenue and a 2% levy on ski lift tickets and ski school.
At Wednesday’s Council meeting in Suite Z, MMSA CEO Rusty Gregory said 2% of all bike park ticket revenue should also be assessed.
The TBID, designed to raise money to support commercial air service and additional marketing, is considered a self-imposed assessment of local businesses, and not a general tax.
The assessment is proposed to be tiered based upon certain criteria. Those businesses which have at least $150,000 in annual revenue with at least half that revenue coming from visitors, as determined by credit card receipts, would be subject to the above assessments. Business that don’t meet the threshold would pay a flat $500 fee.
Mammoth Lakes Tourism Executive Director John Urdi said Wednesday night that the TBID had 68.35% support.
Of the top 68 revenue generators in Mammoth representing 81% of the total business, “we had 65%,” he said. This despite having 11 national chains on that list which didn’t respond, so therefore didn’t vote, so therefore counted against.
But what turned a rote discussion into an interesting one was the testimony of Derek Johnson, owner of Crystal Crag Lodge in the Lakes Basin.
Johnson was particularly critical of what is essentially a tax being imposed on a sales-weighted basis. Is it constitutional? he asked. And if it is constitutional, well then, is it proper?
He then discussed the cumulative impact of taxation and wondered about the loss of business due to pricing out the customer which we’ll never be able to calculate.
He said there is more opposition to the TBID than supporters would lead you to believe and that many business owners disagree with it, but they have chosen not to speak out because they don’t see the point.
Johnson extracted the following from Urdi: That of 636 businesses eligible to vote, just 71 voted for the TBID. Doing the math, that means that 11% of the voters controlled 68.35% of the vote, with Mammoth Mountain controlling 40% of the vote all by its lonesome.
Speaking in support of the TBID was MMSA CEO Rusty Gregory, who promised that in addition to MMSA’s participation in the BID, that the company will significantly increase its own marketing efforts over the next three years. Already, he said, MMSA has opened a new marketing office in El Segundo which it plans to staff with up to six employees.
As Gregory said, “Ask yourself why Vail puts so much into marketing?” Editor’s note: He didn’t answer his own question, but I suppose the answer would be, ‘Because it works.’
“We have a much better product,” he continued, “but we’re shrinking like a has-been.”
Gregory added that the RFID technology the Mountain installed to gather data and track customers shows that there are a lot more customers who come a lot less often than they used to.
For the BID to become adopted, a few more hurdles still need to be cleared. 1.) a 45-day protest period, which began Thursday, followed by 2.) a public meeting before Town Council on June 5 and a public hearing on July 3. The BID could be implemented as early as August 1. Protests can be lodged with Town Clerk Jamie Gray or Mammoth Lakes Tourism Exec. Director John Urdi.