Conventions and Visitors Bureau Director Michele Stimatze asked the Geary County Commission Monday for changes to a 1% transient guest tax the CVB receives, which at one time was dedicated to a potential sports complex project.
She asked the commissioners to combine the original 5% transient guest tax which serves as the source of funding for the CVB with the 1% tax, which was added to help fund the sports complex project, which never came to fruition.
Transient guest tax is a tax placed on tourists in Geary County who spend the night at local hotels. These funds are then expected to be used to help fund the tourism industry in Geary County, putting “heads in beds” as CVB officials say.
After the sports complex idea was dropped, the tax has continued and the funds went into what is now a general fund for CVB projects.
A local group headed by commercial real estate developer Kendall Schoenrock has made comments about possibly using that 1% TGT to create a recreational facility at the location of the old Junction City High School. This move could prevent Schoenrock’s proposed project from happening.
Commissioner-elect Trish Giordano attended the county commission meeting where this was discussed and said she believed that this move by Stimatze was in response to Schoenrock’s efforts.
“I feel this request is in direct response to the article about Kendall Schoenrock’s proposal,” Giordano said.
Commissioner Keith Ascher said he disagrees with this assessment.
“I don’t think so,” he said, deferring to members of the CVB Executive Committee whose signatures were on the proposal letter, including Janie Murk, Adam Wilky and CVB Board Chair Florence Whitebread.
There is reportedly already a resolution drafted to allow the funds to be combined.
During the commission meeting, Stimatze and Whitebread said transient guest tax was down.
“The state’s predicting three years before we get any comeback on tourism,” Whitebread said.
It was down for the month of October, but it was actually up over what it was at this time last year at the start of the fiscal year — August through September — according to counts provided by the State of Kansas.
Stimatze said the CVB’s budget was lowered by about $50,000 for this year.
She said she believed the CVB would struggle through the first months of the year, but hoped to see tourism bounce back in June and July.
“But before that — it’s not going to happen,” Stimatze said.
She spoke about the struggles of the lodging industry during COVID-19, with fewer travelers staying in local hotels.
“We don’t want to be down in the dumps, but we know what we could bring in and what we want to bring in, but conventions, meetings and conferences are not the thing right now,” Stimatze said.
According to Whitebread, the CVB has turned its focus to outdoor events that are safer to hold during the pandemic.