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Commissioned Sedona Visitor Industry Report Irrelevant

Sedona City Council in session

Sedona City Council in session

Sedona AZ (September 16, 2013) The following is an open letter to the SedonaEye.com and the members of the Sedona City Council from city resident Jean Jenks:

To the Members of the Sedona City Council: 

Before giving more taxpayer money to the Chamber, how about fixing our neglected drainage problems, the majority having resulted from projects approved by City Hall over the years? Whatever happened to ensuring City health, safety and welfare in a timely manner, I wonder?

Unfortunately, the “Sedona Visitor Industry, New Resource Concepts” report commissioned by the Sedona Lodging Council compares apples to oranges. It is not relevant to Sedona. In fact, huge budgets, many more people, and much larger geographic areas financially support each and every destination covered in this report to the Lodging Council. 

sedona jobs accounting

An increase in the bed tax is not justified writes Sedona city resident to its Council.

As to the report’s inapplicable selections, instead of the very expensive California destinations of Santa Barbara and Napa Valley, or the New Mexico state capitol of Santa Fe, let’s look at the data for the destination in our own state–Scottsdale, Arizona. Unlike small Sedona, Scottsdale is the 6th largest city in Arizona. It encompasses 184.5 square miles, with an estimated 217,965 residents. The most recent financial information is for FY 2013: Total Adopted Budget = $1,285 MILLION, General Fund = $699.8 MILLION. Why, the City of Sedona’s annual budget is a minuscule 1/35th the total for Scottsdale’s previous year!! I urge you to NOT allocate 55%, or any other specific percentage of annual bed tax revenues, to destination marketing.

An increase in the bed tax is not justified, either. It would increase Sedona’s disadvantage over local competitors outside the City limits. What is needed is keeping this fiscal year’s $580,000 allocation to the Chamber of Commerce as is, and then exercising due diligence and putting this matter out to competitive bidding for next year.

By the way, looking at the “City of Sedona June 2013 Financial Report,” I see for the first six months of 2013 that January through May are ALL in the RED. This certainly is not good news.

Sincerely, 
Jean Jenks
Sedona Resident
 
For the best in Arizona news and views, read www.SedonaEye.com daily!

For the best in Arizona news and views, read www.SedonaEye.com daily!

 

40 Comments

  1. Jean says:

    Although the City’s monthly bed tax collections for Jan through May 2013 are all in the red when compared to the same months of 2012, the City Council will be throwing away significantly more scarce taxpayer funds on tourism. Selecting another vendor to replace the regional Chamber of Commerce was not a consideration.

    All Councilmembers agreed to raise bed taxes from 3% to 3.5%, allocating the increase to the Chamber effective next Jan 1st. Vice Mayor DiNunzio moved, and Mayor Adams seconded, a successful motion to allocate 50% of total bed tax revenues to the Chamber for destination marketing effective July 1st. This amounts to approximately $1 million annually. There was no real concern about ensuring the City reap economic benefits proportionate to this annual subsidy. As far as ensuring increased hotel occupancy rates/numbers in future years, the Lodging Council dictated the City Council must trust, but not verify.

    Biased Councilman Ward made the specious claim that residents do not pay “a nickel” in bed or sales taxes. And I had to press the mute button on the TV remote when Jessica Williamson began her 15-minute rant.

    State law requires a 60-day waiting period from last July 31st when the City Council initially decided to pursue a .5% bed tax increase. Although it appears cast in concrete, the final vote on the Ordinance will be taken during the Council’s Oct 8th meeting.

  2. Willy Lowman says:

    In Sedona, the people intuitively know there is something wrong for the outer manifestations are obvious. The above $550K to the Chamber is an obvious sign.

    There is a dark cabal in Sedona that is skimming government money and pocketing it. Let’s take a look at it and see why people are selling their homes and leaving Sedona in droves. I personally believe it’s due to the blatant increase in taxes and fees to the point that people on Social Security will probably have to move. Just water and sewer is coming in at about $90 per month! Yikes.

    The Sedona Fire Department District is probably the worst transgressor closely followed by the Sedona Chamber of Commerce.

    The Sedona Fire Department District cost $13.5 million to protect 15,000 citizens or about $900 per person. Our sister city 18 miles away in Cottonwood spends $2.6 million for 15,000 for the same services or $200 per citizens. That’s incredible. So I checked another city budget up in Flagstaff and found they spent $9.9 million in this year’s budget for 65,000 citizens or $154 per person! Yikes, that’s a bargain. Ok, let’s try a town outside of Arizona. I randomly picked Waco Texas which has 126,000 citizens who pay $18 million or $149 per person. This is all the same service yet Sedona gets to pay a tab that is more than quadruple that of other towns. All this is done with the protection of the Red Rock News who led the charge to recall our last board because they wanted to reform the department. Why does the Red Rock News do this? It sure looks like they have a financial interest in this thing.Their actions speak louder …

    This brings us to the Chamber of Commerce. Why do people on fixed incomes pay increased sewer fees for the business marketing programs of time shares and other resorts. They are business people so you would think they know what their doing but no, they want citizens in double wides paying their business expenses. Face it, our business community is made up of a bunch of self serving pigs. In the city council meeting last year they stacked the meeting with people who didn’t even live within the city of Sedona. I would say over half did not live here but they sure shout it up for giving the money to the Chamber. What do they care, make the citizens of Sedona pay for their failing stupid business. We don’t need them. I can go to LA to get my pocket picked but I won’t tolerate it here. Then within a week the council votes to increase the sewer fees to nearly double. Someone needs to go to jail!

    I don’t know when the vote is for whatever the vote is suppose to be but, with the gated community crowd rooting “for it”, I will vote against it. The budget burst in the middle of a depression but these people don’t know anything but give the money to family and friends. Believe me, this will only get worst and the citizens will only get angrier. The City, the School District, and the Fire District needs to be taken down. Voting against this up coming bond is a start. Voting against Home Rule will really get some attention. And finally, dissolve or defund the Sedona Fire District and sub it out to Flagstaff or Cottonwood at $2 million. That’s over $11.5 million in increased liquidity flowing through our local businesses. All those closed business doors can reopen. Maybe we can finally get a good burger in this town that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg!

  3. Grace says:

    Not that much to add here except to say what a fine article and I appreciate it when readers are treated with the respect we deserve. No one does it better Eye.

  4. Glenn says:

    I have been harping for a long time on how the fire department is taking us to the cleaners but hardly anyone would listen and most comments were against me. I can only conclude that even though taxes are increasing they don’t pay attention to why. If you look at Flagstaff and their county with the huge area and less property to tax their taxes are lower than ours, why? Most can be blamed on the milking of the fire department and with another new station hold onto your hats.

  5. Tom Longo says:

    Jean, Willy and Glenn…it’s amazing how ill-informed you are! You are all a bunch of malcontents who can’t appreciate all of the efforts undertaken by City of Sedona /SFD staff . I guess it’s true that “birds of a feather, flock together.”

  6. Glenn says:

    Oh can appreciate the efforts just not the huge price tag that it carries, especially when it is done for far less everywhere else.

  7. Tom Longo says:

    Glenn, you can’t compare the cost of running a fire district with a municipal fire department. In a city, the municipal budget picks up the cost for capital projects, equipment, human resources, payroll, billing, etc. In a fire district all of the cost is covered by the district. Flagstaff also has a larger population that can absorb the cost of running a fire department…You are comparing “apples with oranges”…as usual!

  8. Jerome has a volunteer fire department.

    Sedona has a gold plated one. In Sedona, each firefighter has a separate room (they have the use of both male and female bathrooms/showers/lockers etc since there are no female firefighters employed – the facilities are there, they just don’t hire any females), each station has a weight room that could rival the local SNAP Fitness gyms, commercial kitchens, cable television, internet. You have to keep busy when there are so few fires. Plus the department will pay for your continuing education in ANY field. Quite the boy’s club.

    Maybe we should build another station after the Chapel?

  9. Mrs Thomas says:

    Glenn:

    Yes, you’ve been harping on throwing your trash talk for years, mostly about the SFD.

    Of course no one listens because we get tired of hearing your trash. Your comparisons to make your points are like apples and oranges and you always have an underlining purpose. Such as comparing a fire district to a fire department, you very well know the difference and yet you continue to compare the two.

    Way to go Tom Longo, as normal right on point!

  10. Willy Lowman says:

    It has nothing to do with apples and oranges. Whether it’s a city run or district we’re paying $900 per citizen and everyone else is paying below $200 per citizen. This is not trash talk it’s simple fact. We must de-fund the district and either have a solely city department or start over. This is the elephant in the living room, shoot it already!

  11. Mrs Thomas says:

    Richard Sunders,

    You must be listening to Glenn Shannon to have come up with that whole ridiculous posting.

    Let’s start debunking each of your points:

    Jerome doesn’t need separate bunk rooms because, like you said, they have a volunteer fire department so they don’t spend over nights at the fire house. In the Sedona Fire District where we have paid professionals, I believe that they have to follow strict governmental guidelines about the standards to build bunk rooms and lockers, showers etc.

    As for not having a female, perhaps your head is in the sand like the former recalled board members, this past year Sedona hired its first female.

    As for your questioning about the fitness equipment, I’m not going to even touch that stupid comment.

    While Sedona is lucky not to have many fires, are you aware that in 2012 SFD answered over 2200 calls which were mostly (1180) medical related? I don’t think that those fine men and women are sitting around, I think that they’re doing just what we pay them for, THEIR JOBG!

    As I’ve said to so many others, if you have a question about facts in this town don’t just throw trash and stir the pot with silliness, call the appropriate person in that government AND ASK FOR THE FACTS! At the very least why not attend a fire board meeting where all of those facts are discussed. If not, try doing what I do, get your facts from the web site. Give it a shot, you may learn some facts for a change.

  12. Glenn says:

    So to all of you if makes no difference that we paid a million dollars overtime which is way out of line, that one of the wives was on the board and guess what he got a nice promotion. Then when valuation got to it’s high point and the fire department board apologized for not reducing the mill rate. Guess these things make no difference to all you people. Tom to you the fire department can do no wrong no matter what happens. As far as cost yes we can compare costs no matter where the money comes from

  13. Helen says:

    Mrs. Thomas: you seem to be the know all on all issues…news flash! Freedom of speech and the ability to differ on ideals is what our country is founded on….so why not stop your trying to clean up mistakes city has made and stop trying to “Bully” all of us with all your trash?

    I for one am in great disagreement with how both the City and the “untouchable” Fire District spend our hard earned monies.

    Just WHO are you?

    And why did Jean’s topic of City “stuff” get turned into Fire District issues?

  14. Bert says:

    All of you whiners about the fire district are no better than the bumble bees who still whine about W89A that a state hiway should be owned by the city. Both issues were decided by voters at an official election. Besides, this letter to editor was about city of Sedona issues not fire district. Big difference. Get over voter decided issues and get a life.

  15. Helen says:

    Motherhood and Apple Pie issues (aka – emotions) get in the way of Real financial scrutiny, a good business Plan and a cost effective Fire District! Apples to oranges? Hardly Mrs Thomas. It’s called what does it cost each person within a district or town or city to have a fire department?

    think you are the trash talker.

  16. Jean says:

    According to Sperling’s Best Places to Live, compared to the rest of the country, Sedona (zip 86336)’s COST OF LIVING is 22.30% higher than the U.S. average. No doubt this ranking is largely attributable to our gold-plated fire district.

    For those who are happy with being ripped-off by the SFD, one day next year City Hall will be jumping on the bandwagon. Last July 30th there was a big Council meeting with bond experts discussing either City property taxes secured by $20.29 million in General Obligation Bonds (rate unlimited) or Special Improvement Districts. GO-Bonds must be voted on during a November election.

    Hey, the City does not want to cut its dream list back. What’s wrong with spending big bucks on such non-essential capital projects as purchasing the Old Ranger Station Property (on tomorrow’s Council agenda); Feasibility Study of a Multi-Purpose Facility at the WW Treatment Plant; Bike Skills Park; CreekAccsss/Creek Park, etc.?

  17. Willy Lowman says:

    I am sorry I deviated from the above article which addresses the issue of public money to the Chamber of Commerce. So in that regard other tourist states have address this issue.

    According to the Florida Attorney General public money may not cover Chamber of Commerce salaries. “Payment of salaries for employees of the same Chamber of Commerce was determined not to be a proper public purpose expenditure under the principles set forth.”

    The Florida Supreme Court has consistently held that if municipal moneys are distributed to a nongovernmental entity such as a nonprofit corporation, there must be a “clearly identified and concrete public purpose as the primary objective and a reasonable expectation that such purpose will be substantially and effectively accomplished.

    The Florida Attorney General has stated that moneys donated for “general purposes” is not allowed.” Again there is no primary benefit to the public and the primary purpose is again to assist the chamber. Moreover, the municipality has not retained any control over the funds. There is thus no “reasonable expectation that [a public] purpose will be substantially and effectively accomplished.”

    In Sedona’s case they are effectively paying the salaries of Chamber employees and this is illegal. For if you were to stop all city money the Chamber would lay off 3/4 of their employees which proves that primary purpose of the public money is meant to subsidize the Chamber. It’s not a coincidences that the $550K given last year pretty much cover the $500K in salaries.

    No matter what the City says is the purpose the real purpose is illegal. The city really has no control of these funds after they are given and there really is no transparency of the Chamber because it is a private membership club.

    The Florida Attorney General has written (on her website) “Therefore, as meritorious as the chamber and its purposes may be, “absent a measure of public control and a primary public purpose to be served, [such expenditures are] not authorized by the constitution of Florida.” O’Neill, supra. We need to get the Arizona Attorney General to release a similar opinion and clarify this mess in Sedona where pensioners are subsidizing large resort business expenses. This whole Sedona Chamber of Commerce problem is that it’s just more “family and friends” who benefit from my money” (pretty similar to the Sedona Fire District).
    Again, I apologize to the main writer of the article above for deviating off topic.

  18. Mrs Thomas says:

    Helen:

    I am all about free speech as long as that person, like Jean, has FACTUAL knowledge about what they are “speeching” about.

    I may not always agree with you but, I can respect your opinion as long as you are speaking facts not opinions because opinions can and often are, twisted. Before I write about anything questionable, I do my best to CHECK MY FACTS. As for the SFD being “untouchable” I don’t see that as being factual because if that was the case, 3 former board members wouldn’t have been removed from office by the voters and the fourth knew he was so full of hot air that he didn’t bother to run.

    This topic got turned around because of Glenn and his one sided ranting about things that happened with the SFD many years ago. Glenn keeps interjecting his old opinions and dislike for the SFD into every rant of his and can’t seem to understand that along with the new fire board came a new fire chief who is allowed to do his job without being micro managed. Chief Kazian has proven that times at the SFD have changed.

  19. Glenn says:

    Mrs Thomas free speech has nothing to do with factual knowledge, if it was everyone running for political office would be in jail. In all the comments to what I have said you people don’t even address the issues you just keep talking mostly about nothing and slandering those that don’t agree with you. I have never said anything negative about the ability of the fire department just the huge cost of having one which seems to be way above anyone else and you keep trying to justify that.

  20. Tom Longo says:

    Problem that you are having, Glenn, is the inability to understand or the unwillingness to accept that there are many criteria that need to be considered when you compare city fire departments/fire districts: size/type of the area to be serviced, number of fire stations, type of fire apparatus needed, response time, EMS service vs lack of and the size of the population sharing in the total cost…these are only some of the criteria to be considered when doing a credible comparison with other jurisdictions. I am sure that you don’t expect us to accept your opinion without providing us with some credible facts. You are the one who “is just talking mostly about nothing.”

    Can’t you do better than that?

  21. Willy Lowman says:

    Sedona Fire District = $13.5 million (15,000 pop.) = $900 per citizen
    Durango Fire Dept = $ 2.9 million (17,000 pop.) = $173 per citizen

    Similar socio economic demographic areas.

  22. Glenn says:

    Tom I think enough comparisons have been made you just refuse to accept any of them showing how out of line our fire department is. As far as equipment is concerned you try and say ours is so different than anyone’s else s but there is no reason for that. In fact a lot of cities need a lot more special equipment as there are tall buildings of which we have none. There are a lot of communities in this state that have spread out area’s to cover so don’t try and state we are the only one’s, as a matter of fact aside from the major cities most of the state is comprised of spread out area’s. Also most fire departments don’t seem to have an Olympic size swimming pool like ours seem to need.

  23. Tom Longo says:

    Willy (aka Craig), SFD covers an area of 168 sq. miles, while Durango’s fire services cover only 6.8 sq. miles. Once again, you are comparing “apples with oranges.”

  24. Willy Lowman says:

    You really are uneducated about finance tom, if you really believe what your saying, fine.

  25. Helen says:

    As one tax payer I do thank Glen and Willy for their opinions and analysis regarding SFD.

    A lot of people I know happen to think like they do and find it amazing that you, Tom, and Mrs. Thomas can’t respect other’s feelings and opinions and you both keep up the Bully Pulpit.

    I’ve heard, for years, about the over the top and expensive facilities and equipment we taxpayers have paid for since the volunteer era – where and when insurance rates were lowered as a result of the quality of service our unpaid firefighters and EMT’s provided.

    Having lived here for a very long time, I am able to remember how cost effective and excellent on all levels, our volunteer Fire District protected the entire area of Sedona before nepotism and the Union took over…and that is the truth and fact I know.

    (Glen – where is the pool?)

  26. Tom Longo says:

    Willy, you mean to tell me that providing services to an area the size of 168 sq. miles will require the same staffing used for an area the size of 6.8 sq. miles? You are telling me that I am uneducated about finance?

  27. And then someone said... says:

    to Willie Lowman: I do appreciate your getting us back on track! And I can also understand why Glen took off on the SFD because that elected entity are as negligent and self serving on how our taxpayers moneys are needed and spent for Wish List items as is our City Council -FACT Mrs.. Thomas….who ever you are.

    Mrs. Thomas: You do not define or restrict my abilities of how I express my opinions, nor are You allowed to require me to do so on some level you are comfortable with….as you agree with the concept of Free Speech…which item of the Constitution are we talking about here?

    I surmise you do only when someone expresses agreement to your ideas) So how about you just stop determine who’s Facts are correct or incorrect? some of us have been here longer than you can imagine.

    We all do our best to check our facts and not just shoot from the hip = Willie did a great job and brought us back to the real issue.

    Real issues is: Chamber and Taxpayer $ and Council giving that $$$ with the new hike in bed tax up in overload measures without any basis of comparison of real costs ( like in a real bid for services or an RFP = Request For Proposal for services)

  28. m allen says:

    Glen,

    You paid 345 dollars in 2013 to fund SFD. That is for your entire home. If you divide this between you and your wife that’s about 175 dollars per person. What the hell are you whining about.

    Helen and Willy those are facts. Go look it up its all public record.

    Pretty damn good deal for unlimited EMS and Fire Service 24 hours a day 365 days a year. You probably pay more for cable TV.

  29. Willy Lowmen!!! All this In my opinion To those out there who may not know Willy Lowmen I’s Craig Dible ex fire board member!! A guy who never won a seat on the board thru an election but was appointed by his buddies, the recalled board members!!! Instead of actually running for the fire board seat when it came up he choose not to run!!! Now he cowardly writes attacks agaisnt the Fire Dept and anything else he thinks he knows something about ( which ain’t much)!!!

    Now to comment on one of his above statement about “taking down” the city, the board of education, and the Fire Department!!! Dible had a very dangerous job while he was employed– a 2nd grade teacher in Beverly Hills, California!!! So now that He is collecting a Taxpayer Funded Pension and paid Health Benefits, he wants tto take down the system that created his retirement pension( a case of “I Got Mine, Screw You)!!!! In regards to Taking Down The Fire Dept, why didn’t you Man Up and actually run for the Board Seat !!! Now you reduce yourself to a coward writing lies and misinformation under a fake name!!!

    Craig I do believe you got beat up a lot as a kid, the more you spin your wheels trying to be relevant the more you wind up looking like a cartoon character!!!

  30. willy lowman says:

    Dear Rich,
    I don’t know you and I am not Craig, who ever he is. . Stop falsely accusing people and stick to the faces. Your comment is the most vile on this page, please lighten up.

  31. Craig!?! Lighten up? Your the one that said we should Take Down, Sedona government, Board of Ed and Sedona Fire!! You should take your own advice. Also Craig ( Willy Lowmen) your also the guy who always compares Sedona Fire to Colorado!! Remember your Fire house design! Vile? Stop begin so sensitive, and try some honesty!

  32. John, SFD says:

    I see unresolved issues from the voter determined SFD election!

    It speaks to the quality of the belief in the American system by those elected and un-elected that they hold themselves accountable to the voters for approval and disapproval. Despots and dictators and malcontents always mouth off about how wronged they were or misunderstood or deserved to stay in office.

    Run again. If you’re right you’ll get elected.

  33. Glenn says:

    M Allen. Let’s put facts on the table instead of your false statements. My house is 850 Sq’ so can imagine what a normal house is having to pay as most homes are double that or more. I also every two years go to court to fight the assessors value of my property. Tried to convince them regardless of their belief there is no gold buried on my lot. When the house values hit their heights my taxes for the SFD hit almost $800. We did get an apology from the SFD board for not lowering the mill rate but they managed to waste all that extra money. As can see from my last tax bill we are quickly heading back up to the high tax rate in the future, so hold onto your hats folks. Like all government provided services more and more money is never enough and no matter how much is collected they always see to spend it with no problem.

  34. Willy Lowman says:

    To summarize, I repeat;

    Sedona Fire Dist. = $13.5 Million, 15,000 pop (before Chapel Station added)
    Cottonwood Fire…= $ 2.6 Million, 13,000 pop
    Durango Fire………= $ 2.9 Million, 17,000 pop
    Flagstaff Fire………=$9.9 Million, 65,000 pop
    Waco, TX Fire…….= $18 million, 126,000 pop

  35. Glenn says:

    Willy you are wasting your time, these people don’t want to deal with facts.

  36. Paul says:

    Willy Lowman says: September 23, 2013 at 9:27 am I am sorry I deviated from the above article…

    With that post I regained respect for your comments and re-read the entire set and while I don’t agree with you about the SFD, I do find your information about the State of Florida and our City and Chamber important.

    Who will take up the ball and see what can be done legally to address this conflict of interest? There is clear evidence that what the city does is illegal, not slightly but blatantly. Where are the AZ lawyers that should take be taking this on? It sounds simple enough to address.

  37. Tom Longo says:

    Willy/Craig, once again you are comparing apples with oranges…SFD covers 168 sq. miles…did you even bother to look up the area covered by the cities you are comparing? City fire departments don’t need to spend money on finance, human resources, communication/IT and capital projects because they are reflected in the overal municipal budget, while SFD does. Is it that difficult for you to understand that? Stop trying to sell us a bunch of misinformation…we are not that dumb!

  38. Tom Longo says:

    Willy…this what I am talking about…

    SFD=168 sq. miles

    Cottonwood =10.7 miles
    Waco, TX=95.5 sq. miles
    Flagstaff=63.86 sq. miles
    Durango, CO=6.8 sq. miles

  39. Glenn says:

    Tom I wouldn’t call you dumb just arrogant to any facts that don’t agree with you. As far a area covered, included is a lot of mountains and areas of course where fire trucks don’t go. The huge difference in cost even if it was all flat ground is still way out of line. With the amount of fires they go to the cost is probably about $500,000 a fire. You just can’t admit there is any waste at all can you?

  40. Glenn says:

    See from my tax bill the fire department raised it 24% from last year, can hardly wait for next years raise.

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