An email sent to then-Mammoth Lakes Tourism (MLT) Board chair John Morris and MLT executive director John Urdi has led to something of a rift between the non-profit and Mammoth Lakes Town Council.
The email, sent by Town Manager Dan Holler, outlined proposed funding changes for Mammoth Lakes Tourism, primarily within allocations from Measure A to MLT.
“It was a bit shocking and very frustrating,” Morris said of the potential move, which would affect the current fiscal year’s budget if enacted.
“We all know there’s a proccess for this, we’ve been asked as an organization to follow a calendar, to submit deliverables … which we’ve been very careful with,” Morris said.
“Long story short, we’ve done our due diligence, staff worked on a great budget …it was presented, approved by the board, we’re off and running and at the 11.99 hour, we get this, ‘Well, we think we might want to take $334,000 out of your budget’ for…what?” he asked.
The irksome nature of the ask, he explained, was not the money but the process. Council has the right to allocate those funds how it sees fit but “there’s a process for this.”
“It’s extremely frustrating and quite frankly insulting for this to be suggested and/or thrust upon this body now that we’re already in the fiscal year,” Morris said.
He questioned whether the move was supported by the entirety of the council, and said that the email in question expressed the view that Council feels that MLT receives too much funding from Measure A.
He pointed to the Town’s consistent budget overages as proof that the money is available from other source, adding “We’re not quite sure where that goes.”
“This is a big concern,” Morris said, “My concern is that we had a contract with The Town and if that contract is willy-nilly … then what is that contract worth?”
He threw out the possibility of using TBID tax as the non-profit’s sole source of funding.
Morris stated that if the proposed changes go through at the July 21 Council meeting, 10-15% of MLT’s Measure A budget would be gone and “we‘re not really sure why.”
“Anybody else who wants to do a contract with the town: how willing are you going to be work the Town if you that the contract is not as solid as it’s thought to be?” Morris asked.
Town Manager Holler, who had been listening in to the meeting, was given the opportunity to address the board.
Holler said that the he sent the email to Morris and Urdi based on comments from “the majority of council,” adding that the understood the “frustration over timing and process.”
Ultimately, the agreement still has to be approved by the council.
“I don’t think anyone’s really questioning the success of MLT,” Holler explained, “The real pivot is a fundamental shift in priorities on sustainability for town and the our workforce … in terms of challenges in regards to lack of housing.”
He continued: “A few years ago, one priority dealt with economic development … currently I would say this is not an ongoing priority. In some case, we were successful there.”
He said that the Town has had its own set of experiences trying to recruit employees while navaigating the housing/rental market.
Holler referenced MLT’s currently healthy reserves as part of the reasoning for considering the move.
Jeremy Goico, newly appointed MLT Board Chair, chimed in with his thoughts.
“The biggest issue is the time,” he said, “In the time we spent on a joint call with council, none of this was brought up.”
“On top of that” he continued, “I would like to mention again, $2-2.5 million had been given back by MLT for housing. We’re very much aware that workforce housing is an issue in the town.”
Goico stressed that MLT plays a role in the Town’s own funding process via Transient Occupancy Tax.
Lynda Salcido, Mayor Pro Tem and MLT Boardmember, attempted to add the council’s perspective into the conversation.
“What is bringing [this issue] to the front is absolutely the drive for more workforce housing.”
Every dollar that can be put into housing should be put into housing, Salcido said, whether that be for buying new properties or renovating older ones.
She added that marketing results have been very strong and that there’s no dissatisfaction on behalf of the council.
Rather, “It was more about getting money into the pockets of the Town from Measure A for as much workforce housing as possible,” Salcido said.
“I have to ask that the Town also stick to this calendar and when we go through many, many hours of preparing a budget, we need to know that in advance,” said Morris.
“It’s a very strange process,” he continued, “I don’t know any other business that does it this way…there are certain ways you do things and, in my opinion, this should’ve been discussed and dealt with by January, February.”
“As we see that we did so much better in TOT than budgeted,” said Mammoth Mountain Ski Area Representative Eric Clark, “why is it that we’re reaching out and trying to get the $334,000 from MLT when we know we have such a surplus from TOT?”
“We’re looking at a surplus of $5 million … why do you need to come get $300,000 from MLT, [an organization] that is helping propel your TOT numbers.”
In other MLT news …
As alluded to earlier, Jeremy Goico succeeded John Morris as chair of the MLT Board.
Morris had reached the maximum limit of two consecutive terms as chair.
He returned to the executive committee immediately, serving as the board treasurer.
Goico was previously vice-chair, a position now filled by Pat Foster of Hot Creek Aviation.
Sierra Nevada Resort’s Jess Karell will be the new secretary, taking over from Michael Ledesma.