By Cristina Kumka
The local option tax has served the town well, allowing town officials to increase the number of spring, summer and fall events in town by 75 percent since 2009 and paying down debt on a municipal golf course that was once $4 million in the hole.
Continuing to pay down that debt and creating even more events in the off season are two goals of the 2015/2016 plan for the town’s economic development arm. The plan was revealed by economic development director-turned-town manager Seth Webb at a regular Select Board meeting on Tuesday, Dec. 16.
Other initiatives for the new year include developing a mountain bike park, a master plan for the town’s commercial district, more directional signage, a sidewalk expansion and a water study.
The town’s main economic development initiative is the golf course, and the biggest payment since 2009 will be this coming year — more than $609,000 . It was used by some locals as a reason why the town should not consider repealing a $400,000 flow of option tax dollars that had been considered for the ballot on Town Meeting Day. The payments gradually wind down to $310,000 in 2025.
To pay that debt and maximize on the golf experience, the town committee believes that golf guests need to be convinced to stay. The town has created more events and activities to encourage just that.
Webb used a 2012 economic analysis to show that the ski industry had lost $1 billion and 27,000 jobs in the previous ten years because of weather patterns reducing snowfall and changing recreation habits.
In contrast, 2014 is expected to be the best year yet for meals, rooms, sales and use and alcohol during golf season (the third quarter of the calendar year) and the town will received the highest amount of local option taxes this year compared to prior years. Webb also noted that 27 restaurants were open this past summer, and more have stayed open every year since 2009 when the town’s economic development (EDT) department was started.
The events and marketing budget for the town is up 6 percent in the proposed budget for 2015/2016 mostly because payment schedules in the 18 month transition budget (from a calendar to fiscal year). In 2011, the town Events and Marketing budget was $495,000. That decreased in 2014 to $227,000. For the new 18-month proposed budget, marketing and events are supported with $347,000, according to Webb.
Administrative costs will increase from $33,100 in 2014 (over 12 months) to $50,587 for 2015/2016 (over 18 months).
The town will maintain all big events in 2015, including the Stage Race, Spartan Race, AJGA Golf Tournament, Killington Classic, Biggest Lower Run/Walk and the Hay Festival. Other events under development for 2015 include Powerman athletic competition, Vermont Jerk Festival and others.
Webb told the Select Board that of all the events created or supported by the town, 75 percent didn’t exist in 2009.
In all, 39,000 visitors come to Killington for these events and there’s an estimated $7 million plus economic impact. The town invests $130,000 and for every dollar spent, the town gets $56 back in return on its investment, Webb added. That’s up from the return in 2013 of $54, according to Webb’s calculations.
Cristina Kumka is a correspondent for The Mountain Times and producer and host at PegTV.