QUEENSBURY — For-profit businesses should not be turning to the town for occupancy tax revenue, the Town Board said Monday.
In a workshop meeting, the board decided to fund only two large for-profit businesses and for much less than the businesses had requested.
Great Escape had asked for $25,000 for its popular Oktoberfest, which has now expanded to three weekends in September.
Board members liked the idea of supporting an after-season event, because it draws people to the area, but they didn’t love it.
“Their numbers (of customers) are rising. How much do they really need our money?” board member Jennifer Switzer asked. “One of the things we have to start looking at is for-profit organizations.”
Last year, Oktoberfest drew in 40,000 customers. The event cost $175,000 to put on, according to Great Escape’s figures.
That means Great Escape had to collect less than $5 per customer to break even.
Of course, many customers have season passes, meal plans, and parking passes, so it is easy for them to avoid spending money at the park during a visit.
In the end, the Town Board decided to give the amusement park $15,000, the same amount it gave the park last year.
Board members entirely rejected a $25,000 request from West Mountain for a yurt that would allow the ski center to expand its crowded lodge next season. A permanent expansion is in the works, but won’t be ready by fall.
The yurt was requested by the ski school, a nonprofit. But the organizers made it clear the ski mountain would use it. They would put rental lockers in the yurt for season pass holders, as well as additional lodge seating.
Board members said they felt the for-profit ski business needed the yurt, but applied “under the guise” of the ski school.
“Where is the line between the nonprofit school and the for-profit, and how is the money flowing between the two?” Switzer said, adding that she was unhappy to hear that the ski school would let the ski business use the yurt for free.
Board member Tony Metivier said that was the way the business handles all purchases.
“Everything they buy gets owned by the school and then the school allows West Mountain to use it,” he said.
He added that he wanted to support the ski school. Last year, the town gave occupancy tax revenue for race bibs and race timers.
“I just can’t justify buying a yurt,” Metivier said.
The board was also unenthusiastic about a request from for-profit business Golden Goal, which runs athletic fields in Fort Ann. The company wanted $45,000 to hire another employee.
Board members said they want to use occupancy tax revenue to support marketing the area, not to pay for operational costs at a business.
“If they were asking for something other than a person,” Switzer said.
The board decided to offer $5,000, but with the provison that it only could be spent on marketing.
Their goal with occupancy tax revenue is partly to advertise the area.
Board members also agreed to fund Underdog Race Timing, which had asked for and received $1,500. That was a small amount of money and was reasonable for a for-profit that sets up races in the area, board members said.
The board provided funds to many nonprofits that provide activities for tourists, from the New York Spyder Riders (which runs a bicycle event) to fireworks after the Glens Falls Symphony.
For the first time, they gave $15,000 to the new Adirondack Film Commission, which tries to get movies and television shows filmed on location here.
“This is a new initiative. This is the time we should be supporting it,” Switzer said.
Film Commissioner Andrew Meader told the board that, when he gets a movie or TV show here, hundreds of thousands of viewers get to see the area.
“It’s better than an advertisement in the Super Bowl,” he said. “The exposure is priceless.”
Board members felt $15,000 was a reasonable amount to spend for such a possible reward. The commission, while still acting informally, got several shows filmed in the area. It became an official nonprofit last year.
“I absolutely think it’s a wonderful thing,” Metivier said. “I’m excited about this.”