While discussions regarding the city budget and the proposed Salish Lodge and Spa expansion continue through the month of October, the Snoqualmie City Council also received updates regarding their Utilities Capital Improvement Plan funding, as well as Lodging Tax Advisory Committee recommendations at the Oct. 8 meeting.
Councilmember and Lodging Tax Advisory Committee (LTAC) chair Sean Sundwall updated the council on recommendations for funding that soon will come before them.
The city reallocates funding collected through the lodging tax each year to community organizations to promote tourism. Organizations submit applications to receive funding and the LTAC makes a funding recommendation to the council.
Sundwall told the council the LTAC had decided not to allocate funding to the Art Gallery of SnoValley which has served as the interim visitor information center since May 2017. When the Gallery was chosen as the interim location the city approved $17,290 in LTAC funding. This year, Sundwall said, they applied for $29,000, which is more than one-fourth of the total LTAC allocation budget.
The lack of funding, he said, is due to questions regarding the role of a visitor information center in the city. Before allocating funds, the LTAC wants to make sure the city has a vision for how to proceed with visitor services.
“Our thought was until council comes up with a mid-term or longer-term vision, we aren’t willing to fork over $29,000 which is more than a fourth of that LTAC budget,” Sundwall said.
Whether the city needs a physical visitor information center still needs to be determined. Councilmember Bob Jeans asked if a physical location was necessary, saying he believes most people figure out what they want to do online before they arrive.
Councilmember Bryan Holloway said that while he didn’t disagree with the decision, he was concerned about tying a possible future decision to a decision that needs to be made in the next few weeks.
Sundwall said the committee questions the value of a physical visitor information center unless the location itself was a visitor attraction, such as a train car or the previously considered tree house. He recommended the Community Development Committee (CDC) consider discussion on a middle-term or long-term solution.
“If there is any way for you guys to get that on your CDC plate to figure out what is our middle-term or long-term solution rather than just focusing on what we fund or don’t fund,” he said. “So when it does come time to fund something it’s based upon a larger plan that’s focused on driving tourism from the number two tourism spot in the state (The Snoqualmie Falls) to our awesome town.”
Councilmember Jim Mayhew also updated the council on the status of the 30 million dollar bond put out last month to fund the next five or six years of the utilities Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). He said putting the bond out in September resulted in a savings of hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Mayhew said the city’s bond was put out at the beginning of September with a 30-year treasury rate of 3.06 percent. When he checked the previous Friday, the rate was 3.35 percent. That’s a 30 base point savings, he said, by getting the bond out a month ago rather than waiting until October.
“When we decided to go for the larger amount, fund a whole additional year of that CIP, our advisors told us that the break even point would be about 30 basis points. We achieved that break even point in just 30 days,” Mayhew said. “We have saved an enormous amount of money by getting that out when we did, and getting it out for the larger amount. We have saved an enormous amount of money for our ratepayers.”
Mayhew and Mayor Matt Larson thanked the finance team that worked to get that project done.
The full video archive of the meeting is available on the city of Snoqualmie’s YouTube page.