Salado aldermen will begin laying the groundwork for ending its contract for services with the Salado Chamber of Commerce funded by hotel occupancy taxes.
The board will discuss the termination of the contract at its July 6 meeting. Aldermen discussed in workshop session pursuing the termination of the contract, which is up for renewal with the beginning of the 2017-18 fiscal year on Oct. 1. The contract has a 60-day period for its termination by either side.
Under the current contract, the Chamber is responsible for operating the visitors’ center and chamber offices, including all rent, utilities and other expenses. In an effort to cut costs, the Chamber moved to its current location at the Salado Museum on South Main Street.
Erin Klingemann will continue as interim tourism director during the transition period of terminating the contract. Aldermen are “looking seriously to move her into the permanent position” Ferguson told Salado Village Voice.
Ferguson said that part of the reorganization of the tourism department would be the elimination of an assistant position paid for out of hotel occupancy (HOT) funds. Currently, the Village spends almost $150,000 on salaries on benefits through HOT funds ($120,000 for two full-time personnel and additional $27,650 for benefits, taxes bonuses).
“We were spending an awful lot on salaries and very little on marketing,” Ferguson said.
Faced with declining revenues due to the closure of the Stagecoach Inn for renovation and the loss of revenues from Yellow House B&B because it is not in boundaries to collect HOT taxes, the balance of HOT funds has declined in the three years that the Village and Chamber have contracted with each other for services.
However, much of the spend down of the fund balance was at the direction of aldermen to bolster the local tourism economy during the construction of I-35 and closure of Stagecoach Inn.
Part of the termination of the contract will be decided how the Tourism Department will share in the expenses of operating the visitors center. Prior to the three years in which the two entities operated under a contract, the Chamber sub-leased space from the Tourism Department. Currently, the Chamber leases space from the Salado Museum for its offices and the visitors center.
One of the principal goals of the changes in the Tourism Department will be funding personnel to keep the visitors center open on the weekends.
“It makes sense,” Ferguson said, “that the visitors center be open on Saturdays and Sundays.”