Lenox City Tax Revenue Hits Record Pace – It’s ‘Spectacular,’ Says City Manager | South Berkshires
LENOX — The city’s hospitality industry generated an additional $650,000 in tax revenue from lodging in the city’s coffers during the traditionally quiet November-January off-season, according to a report from the Department of Revenue. State.
For the first three quarters of the current fiscal year, “tourist tax” is $3.1 million, a record pace that City Manager Christopher Ketchen called “spectacular.”
Despite the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, after the release of lodging tax revenues for the full year in late June, the total could approach double the previous record of just over 2.1 million dollars, established between July 1, 2017 and June 30. 2018.
Looking ahead, an informal survey of area accommodation owners and restaurateurs points to a record warm season for tourism in Lenox in the coming months.
The continued growth of the robust hotel sector despite the pandemic comes at a particularly opportune time during the fiscal planning season. Despite a drawdown on state-certified “available cash” reserves of $4.2 million last August, the total will be replenished and remain high this summer, largely due to the current Chambers fiscal surplus. , Ketchen told The Eagle on Tuesday.
The city’s $30.9 million spending plan for the coming fiscal year is up for voter approval at the May 5 annual town hall meeting at 7 p.m. at the Duffin Theater in Lenox Memorial Middle and High. School.
The city’s proposed budget includes a transfer of just over $800,000 from “available money” to fund the general fund’s operating budget of $23.4, Ketchen said. Rising health insurance costs and growing participation in city-provided benefits are contributing to significant increases in spending on some city services, he said.
The school department’s overall budget, for voters to consider separately, is $14.9 million for operating expenses. About 82 percent of that budget is funded by staff costs, as is typically the case for county towns and villages that fund their own school districts.
Although the select council approved the city’s spending plan, the finance advisory committee issued a warning shot to residents. While commending Ketchen for “a superb job of managing operating expenses under his control,” committee members urged the school department to revise its budget planning going forward “to ensure it continues to deliver a education of the highest quality at a manageable cost”.
Citing the committee’s goal on behalf of ratepayers “to ensure that our local government supports our quality of life without increasing our cost of living” by helping to “keep property taxes for our neighbors at consistent and reasonable levels,” members asserted that “limiting property tax increases requires limiting increases to the Lenox Public Schools budget.
“The LPS budget this year is 4.9% higher than last year, significantly above the City Manager’s 3% growth target,” the finance committee said. . “We recommend that LPS adopt a more strategic planning process in future years than that used this year. Achieving district goals in a fiscally responsible manner will require significant reallocations of resources, which must occur through a budgeting process that starts from any school district’s necessary base offering, but identifies then relatively lower priority areas for reduced investment that can help fund important new initiatives. »
The committee said a “review of staffing will be particularly important. From what we know, LPS has not performed this exercise in recent years, which means both that it is absolutely necessary and that a process will need to be established. If the school board does not attend to the basic structure of its budget, costs will continue to rise aggressively. »
Highlighting the major capital investments the city faces, estimated at $86 million over the next five years, members urged “further consideration and specific expertise…to ensure these projects are well-coordinated and financially sound”. The committee recommended that “hiring a knowledgeable capital project manager who can help the building standing committee thoughtfully guide city projects with proper oversight can be helpful during this time of capital investments. in high capital”.
As a basic recommendation, the finance committee expressed unanimous support for the city’s operating budget, but not the education budget. “We hope that with a more strategic budgeting process by the school committee over the next year, the finance committee will be able to support its fiscal year 2024 budget,” the members wrote.
Acknowledging the finance committee’s “great concern” and “significant reservations” about the school’s spending plan, board chair Marybeth Mitts called the committee “highly appreciated” by board members. advice.
“We take their opinions and considerations to heart when we assess different aspects of operating and capital budgets,” she said. “We thank them for the countless hours they have devoted to a very substantial large letter.”