BUCKHANNON – While some swaths of West Virginia are recovering from the economic impact of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, other pockets of the state are still struggling, and Upshur County has not yet rounded the corner, the head of the Upshur County Convention and Visitors Bureau told Buckhannon City Council Thursday.
CVB executive director Laura Meadows appeared before council members at their July 15 meeting to request a contribution of $25,000 to provide a stopgap for an approximate 50 percent loss in revenue the organization experienced in hotel/motel tax during the 2021 fiscal year.
City council members unanimously approved the $25,000 request.
Meadows had submitted her request during the March 2021 working budget sessions, but city officials said they wanted to see where tourism agency ended up at the end of the fiscal year, which ended June 30, 2021. In total, the CVB took in only $72,000 in hotel/motel tax after its 70/30 split with the City of Buckhannon – an amount that was halved by the lingering effects of the pandemic.
The Upshur County Commission contributed $20,000, and city council members said they would circle back to consider Meadows’s request in July.
“We did everything we could to just try to respond to the revenue loss,” Meadows said at Thursday’s meeting. “Unfortunately, we’re still not seeing that revenue from hotel/motel tax rebound. I think we’re hopeful that this upcoming year will be better. It’s continuing to affect our small businesses and also our organization.”
Meadows said the CVB had taken advantage of federal stimulus tax dollars and even laid off some staff members, including herself for a period of time.
“I’ve been saying we’re right at about a 50 percent reduction just in hotel/motel tax,” Meadows said, “and the Event Center [at Brushy Fork] has seen a massive reduction in revenue.”
“I don’t want to be in a position for this upcoming year to not have any marketing funds and just kind of sit,” she added. “I would really like to have this assistance of $25,000 from the City of Buckhannon to at least know I can secure specific campaigns, that we can do certain projects to really let people know what we have here because we have so much happening in Buckhannon, and we just kind of have to get our feet back under us.”
Councilman David Thomas made a motion to approve the request, which was seconded by councilwoman Mary Albaugh prior to passing.
Adding the $25,000 contribution to the expenditures side of the city’s general fund budget occurred as part of a larger general fund budget revision in which the city had to reduce its estimated balance on hand from approximately $1.3 million to about $704,000 so that its revenues and expenditures would match.
Council approved the budget revision with six yes votes and an abstention from Thomas.
In addition to the $25,000 contribution, among other budget revisions, the following items were included:
- Adding $186,530 for the salaries and benefits of three entry-level firefighters
- Adding $20,000 for events (children’s fest, Truck Fest, Strawberry Festival and Fourth of July fireworks are covered by this line item)
- Adding $25,100 for city hall building repairs that include landscaping, doors, foundation (roof included in original budget)
- Adding $7,000 to Streets Department capital outlay for a scissors lift needed at the Street Department
- Adding $70,000 contribution to the city’s Flood Control Fund
- Adding $24,500 to the Stockert Youth & Community Center capital outlay for asbestos and debris removal from the property at 65 E. Main St., the former Knights of Pythias fraternal house
- Adding $66,515 to Street Department projects, which includes $20,000 for actual projects and funds for the purchase of lights that did not arrive during the 2020 fiscal year