homepage logo

While visitors sleep, the money rolls in

By Staff | Feb 27, 2008

Because guests traveling around northwest Iowa have discovered Estherville is a peaceful place to spend the night, city officials and the Estherville Area Chamber of Commerce have realized a comfortable amount of revenue to the sweet tune of $153,346.90 derived from the Hotel/Motel Tax.

The benefit of the voter-approved measure has now been realized after nine quarters, starting with third quarter in 2005. It was implemented on July 1 of that year.

Dusty Embree, executive director of the chamber, and Vaughn Brua, city finance director, each said the money is the direct result of out-of-town visitors who find lodging at:

n Cozy Grove Motel.

n Sleep Inn and Suites.

n Super 8 Motel.

Embree added that whenever Estherville residents spend the night in any other town at a hotel or motel, this same tax is applied to their bill. “And that has helped those towns and cities become better and more attractive. We’re hoping to do the same thing here in Estherville.”

She added, “We want to make it a better place to visit, work and live.”

Fifty percent of the dollars generated by the tax has to go to tourism projects.

The record for the chamber’s $76,673.45 tourism expenditures shows to date:

n Land Trails, $5,000.

n Water Trails, $5,015.66.

n Welcome Center Tour, $632.37.

n Brochures, $2,174.91.

n Advertisements, $4,244.99.

n Gateway Signs, $44,206.30.

n Administration, $8,458.33.

n Western Iowa Tourism membership and meetings, $1,609.94.

For the land trail category, the chamber did establish a 501C3 trails fund with its $5,000 start-up money. The 501C3 status gives individuals who wish to make personal donations to the fund a tax-deduction.

All of this comes under the Emmet County Community Foundation with Embree noting the bike-walking trails project is still in the planning stages.

The line item devoted to membership and meetings acknowledges the chamber’s affiliation with the Western Iowa Tourism group.

“We try to attend this group’s functions,” Embree said, noting, “We did get a grant which helped with the Escape to Estherville color brochure which also features Emmet County locations such as Peterson Point.”

At approximately $95,000 total cost, there remains an estimated amount of $12,000 left to go for the Gateway Signs.

As for ways to attract new visitors to Estherville, the chamber director said all possibilities are being studied. “We continue to converse with the chamber membership and are taking cues from the new strategic plan, Excel! Estherville.”

Another avenue that may lead to Estherville’s doorstep is the Iowa Great Lakes Corridor because as Embree puts it, “Estherville is a Lakes community.”

The chamber has a place of distinction in the Vacation’08 Boji guide with an advertisement for Estherville on page 127. Ads touting the pluses of this city are also found on pages of The Iowan monthly magazine.

“It is great that we now have a revenue source (hotel-motel tax revenue).”

On the flip side, the city of Estherville has done its homework as well and has funneled their half of the tax dollars into areas which will benefit the citizens as a whole.

Brua pointed out Estherville’s 2007-08 capital improvement program shows $15,000 has been placed in the revolving fund for the Riverside Tennis Court reconstruction. Another $25,000 is in a revolving fund for the deck and piping replacement project for the municipal swimming pool.

He added the 2008-09 capital improvement program has set aside $15,000 in a revolving fund for the South 15th Street/Trail; $10,000 in revolving fund for tennis court construction and $5,000 for lighting at Thoreson III.

The lights were given to the city through the generosity of the Estherville Lincoln Central Community School District. The $5,000 will be used for wires, installation, etc.

Brua and city Administrator Steve Woodley noted the city’s finance committee had met on Jan. 31 and approved the recommendations of how the Hotel-Motel Tax monies should be utilized.

In the minutes of the meeting, it was stipulated, “The staff recommends designating Hotel/Motel Tax as the source of funding for the $40,000 of the above-named capital improvements in the current budget and the $30,000 of the above-named capital improvements in the proposed fiscal year 2008-09 budget.