By a 4-1 vote, with councilman Tom Dunlop opposed, the Oakdale Tourism Board will continue to operate for a year, utilizing a hotel tax to promote the city in an effort to attract visitors.
Council members discussed the tourism board at their Tuesday night meeting, Feb. 21, and agreed that the estimated $60,000 a year allocated to the board would continue to be handled by that entity. There has been some debate about the board for the last couple of months, after questions were raised regarding allocation of more than $150,000 in tourism board funds collected over the past three years. Some council members – and some members of the public – felt it wasn’t spent as wisely as possible to get the most return. The city’s Chamber of Commerce, which had administered the funds, stepped down earlier this year, turning the task back over to the city.
The board is funded by a 2 percent tax that the city’s hotels charge each time a room is rented. Under consideration on Tuesday was disbanding the tourism board, putting the onus on the hotel owners themselves to promote tourism with the city’s assistance or involvement.
But Mayor Pat Paul and the hotel owners wanted to work for another resolution and the temporary reprieve for the tourism board will allow the organization time to develop a strategy and be more accountable to the council with how the money is being spent.
Other action at the session included a mid-year budget review, which showed the city to be holding steady now, but with likely reductions necessary in the foreseeable future. Falling tax revenue and uncertainty with the state budget have put Oakdale, like many cities, into a mode of having to do cost savings, which would primarily come from either a reduction in employee costs through re-negotiations on certain contact issues or possibly a reduction in the workforce itself.
The council also directed Public Works to investigate costs for resuming the city’s street sweeping program and report back with figures at a future meeting.