Lodging tax income is down countywide, but not in Dubois

Jul 23, 2017 Lois Wingerson, Dubois

Editor:

The article about Wind River Visitors Council budgeting was largely correct. However, as a Dubois representative to the WRVC and a member of the Dubois Chamber of Commerce's Destination Dubois committee, I would like to point out that some important facts are missing from the article.

First, concerning travel spending statistics, it is true that, countywide, travel spending is down in recent years, as it is in neighboring counties and elsewhere in the state.

But the story is quite different in Dubois. Here, lodging tax, perhaps our best indicator of tourism activity, was considerably higher in fiscal 2016 (July 2015-June 2016) than in either fiscal 2006 or 2007, the last years prior to the recession, and also higher than in fiscal 2015.

None of this was due to increased occupancy during the Lava Mountain Fire, because the fire started in July 2016, the first month of the 2017 fiscal year.

As to fiscal 2017 (July 2016-February 2017), Dubois lodging tax collections were again higher in each month than for the same months of the previous year.

In the five months when virtually no outside fire fighters were present (October through last February), they were up on average 24 percent. More recent figures aren't yet available.

Second, concerning the Fremont County Commissioners' desire to receive up to 10 percent of the council's funds to spend for any purpose, it was made clear at the meeting that if the WRVC were to agree, most of the funds would go to the incorporated towns (as stipulated by statute), not to the county government.

The commissioners would receive only the percentage of the 10 percent total equal to the unincorporated county's share of lodging tax.

For example, based on fiscal 2016, only about one-fifth of the 10 percent (i.e. less than $14,000) would go to the commissioners.