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Biggest Budget Loser 1: Tourism

June 22, 2012

John Urdi has his fingers crossed.

The director of Mammoth Lakes Tourism draws almost his entire budget from Transient Occupancy Taxes. To increase the tax revenue, it is his task to draw visitors to Mammoth.

But when the Town Council approved its balanced budget Wednesday evening, Urdi was left with $215,562 less with which to draw the very tourists who supply the revenue.

“We’re hoping this is a one-time phenomenon,” he said in the corridor outside Suite Z, the town council chambers above the Minaret Cinema. “Obviously we can’t have another year like last year.”

The immediate effect will be a shutdown of air service to Mammoth-Yosemite Airport for the fall shoulder season. Combined with lower Mammoth Mountain subsidy projections, a continuation of fall air service would leave a shortfall of $400,000.

To fix all this, tourism needs snow.

Among the myriad uncontrollable factors in Mammoth’s budget is the weather. Snow is good. Snow is essential. Last season, there wasn’t much, although the perception of “no snow” among Southern Californians was greater than the reality.

Even so, the visitors stayed away in droves, affecting the Mammoth Mountain Ski Area (75 layoffs in a single day) as well as the Town, which endured a draconian reduction in tax revenue. June Mountain Ski Area closed for the year on Thursday.

In the legislation passed Wednesday night, reductions in Urdi’s department will result in the loss of three positions totaling $100,000.

However there may be a new position created at about $35,000 if things fall just right.

Other reductions will occur in marketing placement across traditional marketing, interactive marketing and sales totaling $152,450, with exact cuts from these budgets to be determined later, when the snow, if and when it comes, begins to fly (more crossed fingers).

Actually, it could get worse for Urdi and his marketers.

The town is likely to also see a cut in budget of $250,000 to $300,000 due to TOT shortfall. Total impact may reach more than $500,000 to tourism marketing.

“We’re hoping this is a bad storm and that it will blow through,” Urdi said of the current situation.
All he needs is snow—early and in bucket loads.

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