Anger was brewing ahead of the Keystone town board meeting on Oct. 4. It was apparent that many of the town had already heard the news that there was going to be an item brought up that would have potential damaging effects on the Keystone Chamber of Commerce.
Discussion centered on the change in the municipal gross receipts tax distribution. Town board members revised it to say that “100 percent of the municipal gross receipts tax shall be earmarked, budgeted, appropriated, and distributed as follows. The town board shall retain 100 % to be distributed under the guidelines of the Municipal Tax Guide for Municipal Officials.”
The current ordinance states that 50 percent of the annual revenue from the municipal gross receipts tax or Bed, Board, and Booze Tax is entitled to the Keystone Chamber of Commerce.
The portion that they are allotted comes from the previous year’s revenue.
Tensions were high and the town board did seek to quell some of the misinformation and provide some reason for why the ordinance could be changed.
In fact, the first question asked after the new ordinance was read was what the general thought process of the town board had in implementing a change in the ordinance.
“My general thought behind is I think the chamber needs to be funded 100 percent but I think when the city needs to have something down we need to have access to this money,” trustee Trygve Nelson said.
His point was that the chamber of commerce gets funds every year whether they are doing a good job or not.
He would like there to be some flexibility with the funds instead of having it automatically go to the chamber of commerce.
He said one of things they could use the money for is ADA problems town.
“We don’t need to be pulling it from the promotions fund that is supposed to go back into the community,” Nelson said.
Vanessa Row, finance officer for the town of Keystone, was questioned what areas of the budget could be used if the board needed additional funding. She told the board members that they act for the community in dividing money for what they would want to do in the community at the budget hearings. If there are no discrepancies from the public at the budget hearings then everything balances right. Row said the whole time she has been in Keystone, 27 years, they have had enough money to do one project one year at time.
“I haven’t seen any problems as of yet,” Row said.
President of the Keystone Town Board, Sandi McLain, asked for people to stand when they were speaking and to not interrupt one another when the issue came up under new business.
Some, like Trinity Rapp, even stood at the podium. Rapp said she doesn’t agree entirely with the proposed ordinance but agrees something needs to happen.
According to Rapp, many businesses and residents aren’t happy with the direction of the chamber.
She came to the defense of Nelson and trustee Rick Brandfas who came up with the idea to change the ordinance.
“Trygve believes this organization is important but it’s broken,” Rapp said.
She said there should be a procedure in place that holds everyone accountable, the Chamber of Commerce and the town board.
For Eric Johnson, who is employed with Recreational Adventures Co., the timing of talking about the issue didn’t make sense.
“We had a great year,” Johnson said. “I really like the momentum we have with who is on the board right now. I like the businesses represented here. I think Keystone has taken some great strides in the last three years.”
Sales tax in Keystone had an increase of 18.2 percent this year as of Sept. 26.
He said he doesn’t understand why the town board would want to derail anything that is happening.
He understood that the town board doesn’t want to defund the chamber of commerce but he also said once a door is open people will walk through.
Mackenzie Hill, representing the chamber of commerce, said there is a severe lack of direction and vision on the board right now. There are nine members on the chamber of commerce board.
“Getting centered on that is what the board intends to do,” Hill said.
He said there needs to be a vision that gets people to stay in Keystone and increase occupancy rates in the hotels.
In order to do that, Hill said there needs to be consistent funding that can be built up.
“You can’t start and stop. We won’t get anywhere,” Hill said.
Kwin Neff, past president of the Keystone town board, said there are usually pretty vague budgets from the Chamber of Commerce. Neff said the chamber of commerce board doesn’t justify what each budgeted item is.
“I do think there are core things the chamber should do. That is obviously the Black Hills and Badlands, Southern Hill Vacation Guide, your basic marketing. As a board member it would be nice to know what that cost is.”
He said there would be room for middle ground in changing the ordinance.
Tammy Gilbertson agreed with Neff and thinks there should be a change to the proposed ordinance.
“I think it gives everybody a sense of insecurity that the chamber is going to be dropped,” Gilbertson said.
“There needs to be middle ground but I don’t think cutting the budget entirely or giving the money all back to the city is the right answer either.”
Tom Hagen, of Rush Mountain Adventure Park. said communication between the town board and chamber of commerce board has been lacking. He said there has not been a trustee at a chamber of commerce board meeting in the last three or four years.
“I think that is what some of the problem is, the fact that when this came out there wasn’t good communication,” Hagen said.
He said a lot of the issue is that people aren’t there for what the chamber of commerce board does.
The discussion of the topic lasted about an hour and a half. Further discussion will most likely take place on the ordinance with indications that the ordinance would be revised. Town board members are wanting to work on something with the community.