LENOX -- As part of the proposed town-government budget for the fiscal year starting July 1, Town Manager Gregory Federspiel is seeking approval from the Select Board, and ultimately Town Meeting voters, for $97,500 in economic development spending.
Total town and school district spending, including ambulance, water and sewer fees known as enterprise funds, is projected at $23,730,000, according to his budget summary.
A key element of the economic development proposal includes planning and promotion of special events aimed at bolstering tourism, which contributes about $1.6 million yearly in lodging and meal tax revenue to town coffers, helping to hold down the property tax burden for homeowners and businesses.
Applications from individuals and consulting firms seeking a three-month, 200-hour, $8,000 position as events coordinator were due in Town Hall on Tuesday afternoon. Federspiel said he plans to evaluate them and schedule interviews with the most promising candidates prior to a recommendation to the Select Board at an upcoming meeting.
The successful applicant would be in charge of coordinating three events -- the third annual Memorial Day Weekend Marathon, the second annual Berkshire Cycling Classic on June 9, and a reorganized vintage car show and downtown block party slated for mid-June.
At a recent Events Committee meeting, Federspiel detailed his budget proposal, pointing out that economic development spending was reduced to $55,000 for
The bulk of the proposed spending for the next fiscal year would allocate $52,500 to fund a 30-hour a week special events coordinator year-round, beginning July 1, at $35 an hour.
The projected funding includes a $10,000 contribution to help support the Lenox Visitors Center, which is housed in the town library and operated by the Chamber of Commerce. It hosts the summer-season half-price theater and concert ticket booth.
Seed money totaling $20,000 for six events also would be allocated. As part of the $97,500, the Berkshire Visitors Bureau would be allotted $15,000 to market the town's attractions on its website and in its e-mailed newsletter.
"Certainly, your support would be helpful," Federspiel told members of the Events Committee, who voiced favorable reactions to the plan.
Federspiel's proposal assumes a 5 percent increase in lodging and meals tax revenue that would recoup the cost of the economic development budget item. Visitors who stay in the town's inns and motels are assessed an 11.7 percent tax, which is shared with the state. The statewide meals tax is 6.25 percent; the town gets 0.75 percent of the revenue.
The economic development budget proposal, if approved by the Select Board at its April 3 meeting, is likely to trigger debate at the May 2 annual town meeting. Some residents and business owners remain chagrined by the town's hiring of the Manhattan-based Bodden Hamilton Partners marketing and PR firm in 2011-12, which originated the divisive and now-abandoned "Lenoxology" campaign.
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