Discussion at the White Pine County Tourism and Recreation Board meeting March 24 centered on proposed Ely city ordinance changes, specifically the recently approved increase to the hotel and motel room tax.

As written in Title 3, Chapter 3, section 5, paragraph D, the affected original ordinance reads that “one percent of the total eleven percent of the room tax shall be specially allocated and dedicated for use by the board for recreational and tourism purposes and for matching funds for grants relating thereto.”

The Ely city council unanimously voted at its March 10 meeting to approve a one-half percent increase to the hotel and motel room tax, to a total of eleven and a half percent, the revenue from which to be used “for outside recreation, all or in part to be awarded by the Tourism and Recreation Board to any organization that applies for it.”

Councilman Sam Hanson was absent.

The city then announced that the city council would vote on a new change at a special meeting on March 29. At that meeting, the city council amended the ordinance and tabled it for further discussion.

The proposed ordinance codifies the tax increase, but changes “outside recreation” to “outdoor activities,” and “dedicate[s] two and a half percent of the room tax for use by the City to maintain and improve City infrastructure and repealing all conflicting Ordinances or Code provisions.”

“There is a real risk that funding will be substantially reduced,” Tourism and Recreation Executive Director Ed Spear said. “The money used for grants will be going to the sewer and streets.”

Spear distributed copies of his affected budget to the meeting, with his cuts highlighted in red ink. He describes losing five of his line items: convention center events, travel and promotions, billboard advertising reimbursable grant advertising, and aid to related organizations applying for funding. He concedes that his proposed cuts are a worst-case scenario, but he chose them to illustrate his point. According to him, he won’t be eligible for state grants because there will no longer be any money for matching funds.

“I’m suggesting we wait on the budget because of the action on Tuesday,” board member Bruce Setterstrom said.

“But we can discuss it,” Spear said.

In other business, the board approved the attendance of board member Lorraine Clark at the Broadacres Swap Meet in North Las Vegas this summer. It approved an increase for Setterstrom to attend the Adventure Gear Fest in Salt Lake City in April, with Setterstrom abstaining. It also approved the addition of another staff member to attend the Rural Roundup in Laughlin in April.

The board holds its next regular meeting on April 28 at the Bristlecone Convention Center at 3 p.m.