There’s a lot riding on $1.8 million in the Town of Mammoth Lakes. That’s the approximate amount of money that Measure A brings in each year. With a restructuring process of the Tourism and Recreation Department currently in progress, this chunk of money is expected to breathe life into the newly forming Destination Marketing Organization, but may snuff out the lights on other programs.
“We’re all scratching for the same money because there’s not enough of it,” said Airport Commissioner Deb Pierrel at a Tourism and Recreation Commission meeting last Tuesday morning.
Not only does the Town need to work on a way to bring in more funding going forward, it also needs to determine exactly how it wants to use Measure A dollars. The Town has been looking at handing over the Measure A funding to the DMO for its budget, but the numbers seem to keep changing.
“They need to let us know if they are not going to give us all of the Measure A funding,” said T&R Commissioner and DMO Board member Teri Stehlik. The DMO is currently working on its budget and is trying to get employees hired, so knowing exactly how much money they have to spend is crucial to making their July 1 operational deadline.
Even with the entire Measure A pot of money, Stehlik claimed the DMO would still be under-funded compared to its peer resorts.
According to Stehlik, Measure A was put into place in 1986 and gets funded through business tax licenses and Transient Occupancy Tax, or TOT. It was originally earmarked for marketing, but has since been used to cover the costs of other Town contracts. One example is the $15,000 provided each year for the Southern Mono Historical Society. Another $325,000 of Measure A money has been tagged to subsidize summer air service if it’s needed.
What is needed is an inventory of what Measure A funds at this time, as well as a better understanding of where Measure A comes from and why. Then decisions can be made on how to use the money going forward. Council member Jo Bacon, who took part in the Tuesday meeting hoped to get a specific Measure A discussion on the Council’s agenda for the May 5 meeting in order to clarify what will go where, and therefore allow the DMO to get a contract together for a specified budget amount. At Wednesday night’s Council meeting, Council member John Eastman publicly committed to making the DMO whole with Measure A dollars in budget cycles going forward if he is still a member of Council after the June 8 election.
In the other half of the Tourism and Recreation Department restructuring, the fate of recreation is still unknown. A concept that had been thrown out earlier in the year was to turn the Mammoth Lakes Trails and Public Access Foundation (MLTPA) into a non-governmental organization called Mammoth Lakes Recreation. According to Town Council member Wendy Sugimura, rather than trying to start a whole new recreation organization right now, the Town is trying to integrate MLTPA into more of its functions, and wants to leave the door open for future growth.
“We want it to be more of an evolution than the start of a whole new organization,” Sugimura said.
Recreation discussions are expected to continue throughout the month in preparation for the upcoming budget process.