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Big bucks keep Bandera's tourism on track

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

Pictured: CVB Executive Director Patricia Moore

It takes a lot of moola to keep little Bandera on the tourismo map, according to Patricia Moore, executive director of the Bandera County Convention and Visitors Bureau. And the CVB budget for fiscal year 2014-2015 presented to Bandera County Commissioners on Thursday, Sept. 11, bears witness to the contention.
The impressive $463,100 price tag nearly resulted in EMS being called to revive county resident, constant court-watcher and fiscal martinet Tom Bregel, who exclaimed, "That's almost half a million dollars." For the record, however, the total also includes a projected cash reserve of $89,000 from the previous year.
CVB funding comes from Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) collected by owners of overnight accommodations in unincorporated areas of the county, Judge Richard Evans explained. While it is technically tax money, it is not paid by Bandera County residents, but rather is a tax imposed on visitors who stay overnight.
CVB administrative costs, including salaries, rent, computers and maintenance costs, among other items, topped out at $216,690 or 46.79 percent of the total budget, giving Judge Richard Evans pause. He cautioned Moore, "Your administrative costs are approaching 50 percent." He also advised her against spending any remaining fund balance as a simple matter of course.
Next year, the CVB will fund special allocations for out-of-county advertising for the Cowboy Capital Rodeo Association, $3,500 for the PRCA Rodeo; Bandera County Chamber of Commerce Hunters Barbecue, $3,000; Medina Lake Betterment Association's Cajun Festival, $3,000; Bandera Business Association's RiverFest, $3,000; two-day Mayhem on the Medina, $3,500; and the Trail of Lights, $600; Bandera Community Foundation's Celebrate Bandera, $3,500 and $2,500 for the Bandera Posse's parade participation; Bandera County Library's Wild Hog Explosion, $3,000; Bandera County Historical Commission's "The Bandera County Historian, $1,000; and the Frontier Times Museum's two-day celebration of the National Day of the American Cowboy, $3,500. This funding makes up 6.50 percent - or $30,100 - of the total budget.
The advertising, promotions and sales portion of the budget topped out at $211,700 or 45.71 percent. Excess revenue over expenditures for 2015 is estimated to be $4,610.
Delivering the CVB's "State of the Union," Moore said that a report compiled by the economic and market research firm Dean Runyan Associates for the Texas State Tourism Office indicated that tourism industry employment in Bandera County had increased in 2013 from the previous year, as had direct travel spending and sales tax receipts. In 2013, local tax receipts were $790,000, up from $730,000 in 2012 - reflecting an increase of 6.30 percent. Direct spending from visitors was $31,850,000 in 2013, as opposed to $31,440,000 in 2012.
Moore, however, maintained a conservative projection for (HOT) funds for next year due to a continued unstable economy. "A rise in gas prices or a major weather occurrence, especially in Houston and other major markets, can have a negative impact on tourism in Bandera," she said. "The review projections basically remain the same as those forecasted for last fiscal year."
Regarding CVB staffing, a part-time position was upgraded to full time, increasing the staff to three full time and two part-time employees, along with voluneers. In lieu of health benefits, each full time employee receives an additional $250 per month, Moore said.
Expenses related to promotional travel and resultant expenses, as well as advertising, which included Bandera on the Road and print and web advertising, were expected to total $211,700 - or 45.71 percent of the FY 2014-2015 budget.
After Moore's presentation, Precinct 2 Commissioner Bobby Harris remarked that of the 11 local events funded by the CVB for out-of-county advertising, only one - the Cajun Festival - was held "outside the city limits." He added, "These events generate a lot of revenue for the city."
Stating the obvious, Moore countered, "Most of the accommodations are in the county."
Both Evans and Precinct 4 Commissioner Doug felt that the CVB should work more collaboratively with the Bandera County Chamber of Commerce and the Bandera Business Association, unless, as Evans remarked, "You don't all play well together."
Thanking Moore for her hard work, Precinct 1 Commissioner Bob Grimes said, "I've been to a lot of economic development meetings over the past year and have become aware that smaller cities are always trying for part of the (tourist) pie. I'm glad that the CVB is trying to check that."
The CVB Board of Directors includes six representatives from businesses that collect Hotel Occupancy Taxes - Lindsay Mace, Diane Lindig, Mary Bob Kosub, Lon Yaeger and Susan Jenkins. There is one vacancy in this group. The board's merchant representatives include Genie Strickland, Peggy Ashmore and Richard Berry from the Bandera County Chamber of Commerce. Homer Stevens serves as the representative from Bandera County North; Eva Lee, Bandera County East; and Debbie Johncock, Bandera County West.
Gerald Fitzgerald was listed as the representative from Bandera County government (commissioners court). Moore indicated he had been appointed by commissioners court "years and years and years" ago. However, Evans didn't recall that particular court appointment, and apparently Fitzgerald has not issued any reports to the court regarding CVB.
CVB officers for 2014-2015 are Stevens, chairman; Strickland, vice chairman, Ashmore, treasurer; and Lee, secretary. Elected from the board membership, officers serve two-year terms.