By Joy Hampton
The Norman Transcript
NORMAN — The Norman City Council wants more details from the Norman Convention and Visitors Bureau on how it plans to spend the extra $200,000 in transient guest tax next year.
At Tuesday’s study session, council members questioned a lack of details in the annual budget NCVB recently presented for approval.
The NCVB submitted a single-page budget and a 47-page Destination Marketing Plan for Fiscal Year 2014, which begins July 1. The plan outlines a general strategy for marketing, but budget specifics such as payroll and itemized expenses are absent.
“The voters gave an increase in the guest tax, and out of respect to them, we need to show them where this money is going,” said Council member Tom Kovach, who called the report “vacuous.”
In April, Norman voters passed an initiative to increase the city’s hotel/motel tax from 4 to 5 percent. Local hoteliers supported the increase to help NCVB promote Norman. The tax taps into outside dollars by taxing guests at area hotels.
As in most cities, the hotel tax is the primary funding mechanism for the convention and visitor’s bureau. Unlike most cities, Norman parks and the arts also get portions of those tax dollars.
The NCVB annual budget was presented for approval to the Norman City Council last week, but Kovach asked for the item to be postponed until NCVB Executive Director Stephen Koranda could supply more specifics about the agency’s plans for spending the extra money.
A portion of the money will be used to hire a media professional to help with marketing. Koranda said current staff will receive a 3 percent cost-of-living increase and the new position will pay $35,000. He said the benefit package accompanying that position has not been determined.
Council members also criticized the NCVB for wading into city politics by adopting formal stances on certain economic development issues.
Council members said their role is one of oversight of public funds and they are not trying to tell the NCVB how to do its job. They said there must be transparency and accountability for how the public’s money is spent.
Mayor Cindy Rosenthal also said two people on the NCVB Board of Directors have been asked to resign.
“That concerns me,” she said.
Koranda said that no one has been asked to resign.
Board members present at the council study session seemed stunned.
Each said they had no knowledge of anyone being asked to step down.