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updated: 11/9/2017 4:30 PM

Some on Elgin council consider cutting funding to tourism bureau

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Some Elgin City Council members said they will consider a proposal to cut off funding to the Elgin Area Convention and Visitors Bureau in the 2018 budget.

City Manager Rick Kozal outlined that among other cost-savings measures when he presented the proposed $258 million budget Wednesday.

Councilman Terry Gavin said the bureau brings visitors to Elgin, but it is "top heavy" and its staff members have a lot of travel expenses. He is in favor of at least decreasing its funding, he said.

"I do think they bring value ... but how much value for the money and why?" Gavin said.

The bureau's funding this year amounts to more than $425,000, including $212,500 from the city, a matching grant from the state, plus revenue from ad sales in the visitors' guide, said Kim Bless, the bureau's president and CEO. There are three full-time staff members -- Bless, whose salary last year was $122,000, director of marketing Krisilee Murphy, and sales manager Wendi Howard -- and a part-time tourism services coordinator.

Bless, who would not divulge ad revenue from the visitors' guide, said cutting the bureau's funding would be counterproductive because it would result in fewer tourism dollars coming to Elgin. "We completely understand that the city of Elgin faces a very difficult budget decisions for 2018 ..." she said. "However, we are a revenue generator."

The bureau gets about 44 percent of hotel/motel tax revenues generated in each year. The city gives an equal amount to the Hemmens Cultural Center, and the rest to the cultural arts commission. As a home rule community, Elgin can use hotel/motel taxes for any public purpose.

The bureau is responsible for securing its own local funding, Bless said. There are 40 certified convention and visitors bureau in Illinois, and most, if not all, get money from local hotel/motel taxes, she said.

Councilwoman Tish Powell said she wants to find out more about how matching funds are disbursed by the state.

Mayor David Kaptain said he'll wait to hear Bless' presentation to the city council next week before making up his mind. He pointed out the bureau serves nine communities in the Fox Valley, and gets the vast majority of its local funding from Elgin.

"It's time for us to take a look at everything, and how we are funding different things," he said.

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