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Finance committee postpones event funding requests

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The decrease in lodgers’ tax was enough of a concern for members of the city of Roswell Finance Committee that they tabled three requests for 2021 event funding at Thursday morning’s meeting.

On the agenda were requests for funding next year’s Milkman Triathlon, Hike It and Spike It, and the Roswell Symphony Orchestra spring concerts.

In 2019, the Milkman Triathlon received $1,500 and requested $2,000 for 2021. Hike It and Spike It received $24,999 last year and requested the same for next year. The orchestra received $4,700 last year and requested the same for 2021.

Councilor Jacob Roebuck made the suggestion to delay voting on the requests.

“We might have a clearer picture a month from now, and if it would not hurt any of these events for the wait on the decision, maybe it might be best that we just postpone having this discussion until a month from now when we have better information,” Roebuck said.

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Committee Chairman Jason Perry agreed, but because representatives of each event were on the phone waiting to speak, he allowed them to do so.

“My recommendation would be just what Councilor Roebuck alluded to earlier is not vote ‘no’ on these things, which is what logically we would have to do with what money we have right now,” Perry said after each spoke about their events.

Earlier in Thursday’s meeting, Tourism Manager Stephanie Mervine gave the report on lodgers’ tax collection for the month of July showing far lower numbers compared to last year.

Mervine said she expects the lodgers’ tax collection for August to be down as well, and September through the end of the year typically trends lower as fewer people are traveling.

Lodgers’ tax collected for July amounted to $70,763, far below the three-year trend tracked by the city. Last year, the city collected $122,326. July 2018’s collections were $116,281 and July 2017 brought $105,581.

Roswell’s hotel occupancy for July was just under the 50% limit placed on hotels by the state’s health order, at 48.5% — down 40% from last year.

The average daily rate, or the average price per occupied room, was down 20% from last year, at $80 versus $100 in 2019.

“We’re not just dealing with an absence of people in the rooms, we’re also dealing with a lowerage of cost per room as well,” Perry said.

Perry said it was important for Roswell that the state ease the restrictions on hotels.

“I truly believe when we can get that open, those numbers will rise for those rooms,” he said.

“We do not know what the governor is going to give us today or in two weeks or in two more weeks. We just don’t have a crystal ball to predict the future with,” Perry said.

About an hour and a half after that discussion, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham’s office issued a press release announcing a revised health order exempting some out-of-state travelers from the quarantine and allowing lodging businesses that have been certified under the state’s COVID-Safe Training Program to increase occupancy to 75%.

Under the revised health order, visitors from states with a 5% or less positivity rate for COVID-19 or a new case rate lower than 80 per 1 million residents are no longer required to quarantine for 14 days after arriving in New Mexico.

Those who can show a valid negative COVID-19 test taken within 72 hours before or after arriving to New Mexico are also exempt from the quarantine, as are people in certain occupations such as federal workers, essential workers, airline employees, military personnel, first responders, health care workers and those arriving in the state on court order.

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