PLATTE COUNTY – A budget of $196,000 was unanimously accepted at a public meeting of the Platte County Lodging Tax Joint Powers Board on Thursday in Wheatland. Based conservatively on collections from the previous year, the tax funds will be used for the promotion of Platte County and for event, visitor center and visitor enhancement grants.
“We give grant money to community events to pull people in from out of the area to stay here and to increase revenue in Platte County Businesses,” explained Kit Armour, executive director of the lodging tax board.
Some of the events and enhancements include an improved sound system at the fairgrounds, grants for the visitor centers and museums throughout the county, the Glendo Chariot Races, Glendo Days, Crazy Days, I-25 Street Market, Green Harvest Festival, Chugwater Chili Cookoff, Two Moon 24 Mountain Bike Race, Wheatland High School Rodeo and more.
Another nearly 40 percent of the budget includes marketing and advertising, including brochures, magazines, social media and the internet.
Armour said the advertising is working at getting new interest in the county. “We are getting 400 to 1,000 requests per week for [Platte County] brochures. We want people to stop in Platte County rather than just drive through it.”
Though she feels the lodging facilities from which the tax is collected end up having to absorb the cost of the tax in order to be competitive in their pricing, board member Susie Cozad Knickerbocker said she is glad there is a benefit to the local communities. “I feel we need to be community minded. If we bring people in [by attracting visitors to the county], maybe it can help balance out [the expense] and do something good for the [local] people and businesses.”
Bunkhouse Motel owner Gordon Mills of Guernsey also voiced concern at the burden of the lodging tax in his own business. He wanted to make sure his community was getting a fair portion of the marketing as well.
Armour emphasized each visitor center and the museums in each town in Platte County get visitor enhancement grant money from the funds, and there is an emphasis on all the points of interest in the county.
Revenue from the lodging tax is up 12.43 percent from last fiscal year, and it was the 2018 fiscal year which showed revenue from the solar eclipse event. Since the lodging tax was voted in at the ballot box in 2015, there has been a trend of increasing revenue in three of the four years, with fiscal year 2017 being the only year with a decrease. To date, the total income is $682,959.53. The Platte County Lodging Tax will be on the 2020 ballot for voters to determine if they want to continue the tax.