LONG BEACH — The Long Beach Visitors Bureau may lose a fifth of its funding from Long Beach to a proposed boardwalk renovation.
Long Beach City Council plans on reducing its visitors bureau funding by $55,000, according to the council’s 2020 budget draft. The council plans on reallocating the $55,000 to help fund a $1 million boardwalk renovation.
The council is scheduled to adopt the budget in early December.
Long Beach Visitors Bureau Executive Director Andi Day said she doesn’t understand why the council is reducing the bureau’s funding to cover boardwalk costs.
“It could change,” Day said. “I haven’t given up hope. I really hope that those voting constituents of the City of Long Beach will realize what their elected leaders are considering and communicate with their elected officials.”
In 2019, the bureau received $255,000 from the city.
The visitors bureau
The visitors bureau advertises Pacific County and its major cities both locally and regionally. The focus of bureau advertising is based on where funding comes from.
Day said the bureau won’t lose any of its staff due to the budget cut because other bureau funders have increased the amount of money allocated to the bureau, Day said.
“As an organization, we’re going to be okay,” Day said.
However, the bureau will have to reconfigure how much time is spent on advertising Long Beach since the city won’t be paying as much money for marketing.
When a visitor comes to the city, a portion of the money they spend goes toward the city’s lodging tax. The tax helps fund the bureau and festivals.
“The fund is becoming imbalanced,” Day said. “I would never propose that we spend all of the fund money on marketing but I do think that a certain amount of the marketing fund needs to actually be spent on marketing.”
The bureau and city have had an agreement during the past three years, where the bureau’s funding from Long Beach’s lodging tax fund was percentage-based.
“It was working really well,” Day said. “I think that’s evidenced by the city being in the strongest financial situation it’s ever been in, and by the tourism industry having the strongest year it’s ever had.”
Through the previous contract, the bureau received 34 percent of the fund, Day said.
“The fund has grown, the economy has grown,” Day said. “It was efficient. It was effective. It was balanced and responsible. I do not know why Mayor [Jerry] Phillips and city council have decided to discontinue this contracting agreement.”
The bureau’s out-of-area marketing is done around Portland, Seattle and the surrounding Puget Sound, along Interstate 5, and in British Columbia.
The bureau also provides information on local places to go, and activities to do.
The boardwalk renovation will likely happen in 2021, said Long Beach City Administrator David Glasson.
“We’ve decided that we really need to save money for the boardwalk,” Glasson said. “We believe the boardwalk is an important thing to have in our town,” Glasson said.
Constructed in the 1980s, the boardwalk has become an important asset for residents and visitors alike, providing a handicap-accessible viewing platform and exercise route with views of the ocean. The boardwalk’s deck, constructed of pressure-treated lumber, is nearing the end of its functional life and the whole structure is due for major work.
During the last three years, the city focused on paying for projects and other city needs. Because of this, the city hasn’t saved much money for the boardwalk project.
Saving the $55,000 will help the city’s chances in getting project loans and grants, said Long Beach Community Development Director Ariel Smith. Grants typically require a financial match, Glasson said.
“If you get grant money, you still need to have a [financial] match a lot of times,” Glasson said. “You never get a 100 percent match.”
Who and what else is impacted?
The visitors bureau isn’t the only entity losing funding to the boardwalk renovation. The council also plans on either not funding Fourth of July fireworks, package tours, Boys and Girls Club tournaments, the Beach to Chowder run, a SummerFest corn hole tournament, the Cranberry Museum and the Columbia Pacific Farmers Market.
Funding reductions are proposed for the annual geocache festival, the Wings Over Willapa festival and the International Kite Museum.
“We’ve eliminated things to help put more money away,” Glasson said. “The council as a whole looked at which ones to produce. I’m not saying it was easy for them to do but it was easier than cutting four or six events.”
The council decided on where to reduce funding based on factors like event attendance and location.
Karla Jensen, owner of the Mermaid Inn and RV Park, expects to be one of the first businesses affected by the decision. She said her inn is one of the last to reach full capacity during tourist season because the inn isn’t downtown or on the beach.
“I don’t understand why the city is going backwards when we still have vacancies and needs,” Jensen said. “I don’t think $50,000 for the boardwalk is going to benefit me as soon as $50,000 for the visitors bureau.”
Jensen said she isn’t the only merchant who feels this way.
“Others are going to be affected too but I’m one of the few who gets a voice,” Jensen said. “If the visitors bureau has to spend more time on marketing for all of the county, that means less time for Long Beach. It’s business.”
Share your thoughts
The council’s next meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 2 at Long Beach City Hall, 115 Bolstad Avenue. Residents can share their thoughts with the council during the meeting’s public comment period.