Duluth City Council to divide surplus tourism taxes among special projectsA resolution to divvy up $775,000 in surplus tourism tax collections will go before the Duluth City Council on Monday, where the measure faces almost certain approval unless it’s unexpectedly removed from the meeting’s consent agenda.
By: Peter Passi, Duluth News Tribune
A resolution to divvy up $775,000 in surplus tourism tax collections will go before the Duluth City Council on Monday, where the measure faces almost certain approval unless it’s unexpectedly removed from the meeting’s consent agenda.
The city solicited proposals for improvements to tourist attractions throughout the city and received a robust response, said David Montgomery, Duluth’s chief administrative officer. He said city staff compiled a lengthy wish list that would have required millions of dollars to fund and then cut it down to a manageable size.
“We think this is a very doable list of projects that are spread pretty much across the city,” he said.
City Councilor Jay Fosle said he was generally supportive of the list of projects but was particularly glad to see $40,000 set aside to help provide a new permanent home for a replica Viking ship that has been left exposed to the elements in recent years, save for the scant protection that shrinkwrap has provided.
“That ship needs to be moved before it is ruined,” he said.
The largest single allocation proposed is $200,000 for bathroom and deck improvements at Enger Park.
Two other projects also are slated to receive six-figure allocations: $100,000 for parking improvements at Glensheen mansion and another $100,000 for wayfinding signs.
“We’re looking to install wayfinding signs to get people from the city’s main transportation arteries to our parks and trails,” said Kathy Bergen, Duluth’s director of parks and recreation.
But Councilors Garry Krause and Jennifer Julsrud also called for signs that would alert travelers to nearby business districts that might otherwise go unnoticed in neighborhoods such as Piedmont Heights and Lakeside.
“It’s important we get tourists off London Road and into Duluth before they head up the Shore and into Two Harbors,” Julsrud said.
Trail projects also fared well and collectively are proposed to receive $160,000 in tourism tax proceeds. The money would go to repave the Lakewalk from Canal Park to Leif Erikson Park, to extend the Munger Trail to Duluth’s Irving neighborhood and develop more bike trails at Spirit Mountain.
In all, the city collected $1.06 million more in tourism taxes than it had anticipated in 2012. Even if the council approves the special allocations being proposed by city administration, the city still will have $285,000 in surplus reserves left in its tank.
Hartman said he hopes city administration will see fit to dedicate some of its excess tourism money to help promote Duluth as a vacation destination in other markets. He pointed to the success of the marketing campaign the city launched after the June flood.
“I think there is a fine line between taking care of all the city’s falling-apart capital needs and the dramatic need for more marketing dollars,” he said, describing the challenge of striking a proper balance.
Special tourism taxes are collected in the form of a sales tax surcharge on lodging, dining, drinking and entertainment venues in Duluth. The tax proceeds are earmarked exclusively to support tourism and generally cannot be used to cover general fund expenses.
In all, Duluth collected more than $8.4 million in tourism tax money in 2012 — about 3 percent more than it did the prior year.