During the Wednesday, Aug. 14, portion of the Mono County Board of Supervisors’ budget workshops, June Lake resident and Double Eagle Resort owner Ralph Lockhart, with his mother and fellow DE Resort owner Connie Black, came before the Board to discuss an idea for county-wide community funding.
When Mammoth Mountain CEO Rusty Gregory announced in the summer of 2012 that June Mountain would not operate for the 2012/13 winter season, the Board of Supervisors agreed to give the community of June Lake $100,000 to help keep it afloat with events and activities throughout the winter.
Lockhart proposed seeing more of this type of funding be allocated throughout the county on a TOT (Transient Occupancy Tax) generated basis.
For example, Lockhart explained to The Sheet on Thursday, if the County could earmark $100,000 to invest in marketing and event promotions for communities around the county it could roughly be divvied up based on how much TOT each community brought in to the County.
Since, as Lockhart pointed out to the Board, June Lake brings in half of the County’s TOT, it would receive roughly half of the allocated money.
Mammoth does not pay TOT to the County.
District 2 Supervisor Fred Stump felt the need to point out that Lockhart may be a little overzealous in his opinion of the importance of June Lake TOT to the County. He pointed out that property tax, not TOT, is the real engine of the County.
Stump told The Sheet on Thursday that while the County receives approximately $1 million in TOT each year, it receives somewhere around $17 million in property tax each year, with more than 69 percent of the property tax comes from Mammoth.
According to Stump, when you combine property tax dollars and TOT, June Lake brings in about 6.7 percent of the County’s revenue, whereas the communities of Crowley, Swall Meadows and Paradise combined contribute 12 percent, with Crowley contributing about 8.9 percent on its own. Plus these communities don’t have a paramedic unit to support as June Lake does. The cost to the County to have the medic unit in June Lake is about $700,000.
“You need to appreciate the subsidy you’re already getting,” Stump said.
Stump further explained his view that the Tri-Valley is the most underserved area in the County even though it is a big agriculture area, which is the second largest economic contributor to the area.
“June Lake is not contributing near the amount that the tone of your presentation assumes,” Stump said. “In straight TOT, yes, but with property tax and other factors, no.”
“The County’s TOT base is like a diesel truck,” added Supervisor Larry Johnston: slow and steady. “While the Town’s [Mammoth] TOT is like a Ferrari … volatile.”
“I understand that the engine that runs the County is property tax, but let’s help TOT do better,” Lockhart said. He told The Sheet that he would like to see TOT numbers back up to where they were four years ago.
Johnston asked what Lockhart thought about a County TBID (Tourism Business Improvement District), but Lockhart was not in favor.
“I have a sour taste in my mouth,” Lockhart said. “It has an affect on whether people stay with you or not.”
District 4 Supervisor Tim Fesko agreed with Stump and spoke up for his constituency.
“I heard complaints last year when the Board gave you $100,000 and I wasn’t even in this seat [as supervisor] yet,” Fesko said. “I would rather see the tourism budget doubled from $200,000 to $400,000, or raise the $40,000 requested for local programs [county-wide] to $100,000.”
Fesko also pointed out that with the County’s budget down from $71 million to $63 million, everyone has to do more with less.
Lockhart understood and reiterated, “Spread the money across the County but base it on TOT. Then everyone gets something.”
Black added that the recent sale of the Rodeo Grounds was huge for the entire County and said that the buyer, Edward Roski, Jr., was “open to the potential that is there.”
During policy discussions the Board voted to allocate funding to both a non-profit organization pool and a local program funding pool. Communities and community members can apply for event funding and community service funding from these pools of money.