For a few weeks, a group of Mammoth business owners and officials have met in an exploratory committee to consider formation of a Business Improvement District and the possible imposition of a 1% assessment on gross revenues of lodging, restaurant and retail businesses. John Urdi, Mammoth Lakes Tourism Director, said that preliminary discussions indicate that a 1% assessment could raise $1.5 million for marketing and air service subsidy for the community.
Mammoth Mountain CEO Rusty Gregory had pointed to a Business Improvement District as what he called “a better way to go” than a ski lift ticket tax. Director Urdi said he put together an exploratory committee of up to 18 people to look at the options. Urdi said the idea is to include businesses that directly involve tourists since the money would go to marketing for visitors and for air service. He said lodging and restaurants are directly connected. Some retail businesses are not.
Urdi said the BID would mean a “consistent and sustainable air service subsidy” so that the Town would not have to face finding the funds every year. Urdi believes in the countywide value of air service. He points to what he says is a $5.3 million spending impact from air service in spring, summer and fall. $4.6 million of that is directly in Mammoth Lakes, he said.
So, what do local leaders think of the assessment district idea? Urdi said, “They seem positive about where we’re going.” He said the district would mean no risk of cuts to marketing. Other sources have said that the Business Improvement District idea is not ready for prime time and still has a lot of questions to answer. The Tourism Director remains confident. He points to the return on marketing investment and says for every dollar spent, $136 are brought back to the town and $4 in tax revenue goes to Town government.
Urdi said the money raised in a BID would be supplemental to the money the Town already dedicates to marketing through Tax Measure A. He added if Mammoth Mountain participated beyond their lodging, restaurant and retail stores, that could add more dollars and possibly make Measure A money available for something else. In his public discussion of a lift ticket tax, CEO Rusty Gregory has not exactly said no, but he has not said yes either.
Urdi said the exploratory committee has met three times and will meet again this Thursday. He explained that if Mammoth businesses do want to create this assessment district, they would need to present a petition to the Town Council and 50% plus of lodging, restaurant and retail stores would have to approve of the idea. Urdi said he would hope for 85% to 90% approval. He explained that this is not a public vote but an internal vote of each business group. He said there are still a lot of questions and the need for education on the idea. Urdi said, “There will be more clarity in a couple of weeks.”