Our tourism dilemma
Ashland tourism and the revenues it generated this summer will certainly be much lower than projected, which leaves the city with a big problem. The budget statement clearly shows how our city is dependent on, yet vulnerable to tourism.
Nearly 28 percent of all the collected city tax revenue used to balance our budget comes from the transient occupancy tax (taxes on lodging) and the food and beverage tax. These revenue streams are essential components of our balanced budget.
According to Daily Tidings reports, OSF lost over $2 million in revenues this season, along with many people describing downtown Ashland as a ghost town when the smoke peaks. In the 2017-2019 adopted budget, on pages 1-3, it’s stated that “Ashland is host to over 400,000 visitors per year, creating an unusual and additional burden on city resources.” Without a calculation methodology description, one could infer a number of things. Among these is that 400,000 may likely reflect total OSF ticket sales, not necessarily individual visitors to Ashland who purchase multiple tickets. What’s troubling is that these “data” were used by our city to justify the hiring of four additional police last year.
When the numbers are in, let’s hope our elected officials change their attitude toward irresponsible spending and adopt policies that prioritize the funding of essential city goals. Let’s hope they avoid the path of raising utility bills and increasing taxes, surcharges and fees to make up the revenue shortfalls that are sure to appear in the city coffers this year.