CAPC to get tougher on taxes

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

EUREKA SPRINGS -- Rick Bright, finance director of the City Advertising and Promotion Commission, told commissioners at the Feb. 22 meeting the collection process in place now for pursuing businesses behind on city taxes has allowed some businesses to be delinquent an entire year. He added that some businesses are chronically delinquent.

He said this is not fair to the businesses that regularly pay the taxes they collect. He recommended the CAPC become more deliberately proactive to keep properties current, and he outlined his plan for how to fix the problem.

Bright pointed out, "This is money they collect for us -- it's not their money. It's a pass-through tax. There's no reason to let it go for so long." He remarked that some properties don't pay until they get a summons, but then they do the same thing again.

Chair Charles Ragsdell remarked, "If we can get them current, then it is easier to keep them current."

Bright said that five properties are "non-stop delinquents," and he claims they under-report taxes they collect. According to state law, the CAPC has the right to audit businesses which collect taxes.

Ragsdell followed that the law says the CAPC can even perform the audit itself. He recommended commissioners study the law and discuss it at their next workshop, but he said "random audits should be part of the collection scheme. Regardless, the process should be more deliberate than it has been."

Bright suggested someone from outside the area should perform the audits. Executive Director, Mike Maloney, suggested they determine costs to hire an independent auditor, but reiterated, "It is only equitable to the timely taxpayers that we do our due diligence by auditing delinquents."

Ragsdell suggested that Bright notify all accounts by mail of the changes in collection policy, which they will discuss further at next workshop.

Maloney said the long journey of the website continues toward completion. The developer has fixed more bugs, and Maloney said one improvement has been simply the way staff input calendar entries.

He also commented on the analytics they get about those who view the site. He said that the previous week there had been 41,000 page views, and the data revealed that many viewers spent more than five minutes browsing the site, which he felt was amazing and encouraging.

He said he wants to delve deeper into the analytics to see, for instance, what search words are used and in what proportion, to help fine-tune the marketing.

Ragsdell also announced that the updated and re-energized website for the auditorium is up. Browsers can look up to find the site, patterned after the new site, scroll down a list of events and even buy tickets. Ragsdell said viewers will see, for example, that Michael Johnathon, folksinger, treehugger and host of WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour, will be performing at a fundraising concert for the Aud on March 29.

Maloney announced that he had hired Gina Drennon as the new publicist at the CAPC, and said he was impressed with her command of public relations, webwork, and fluency in techspeak.

He also announced that in April, NCC Media, a cable TV advertising company, will begin placing ads for Eureka Springs in markets in Kansas City, Dallas, Shreveport and other areas on channels like HGTV and the Food Channel, where they will not be competing with high-end car commercials. He said the strategy is to reach the right demographic at a reasonable cost. NCC provides web access, so their site will provide a link to the CAPC site.

Maloney also followed up on earlier inquiries he had made with the Branson airport. He asked them what they could provide for a total of $15,000.

"The response? They bent over backwards," he said.

All visitors passing through the airport will see Eureka Springs on monitors positioned around the facility. Folks will also see Eureka Springs on a 5x7 banner entering and leaving the airport. In the luggage carousel area, there are large panels with double-sided baggage toppers which will feature Eureka Springs ads.

Branson airport personnel will also put ads on window-cling stickers visible as people walk outside the terminal. They plan to build a magazine-sized rack at their visitor center and stock it with the Eureka Springs Visitors Guide. For a final throw-in, the airport has three websites, and all will feature a link to the Eureka Springs site.

Maloney added that Southwest Airlines now flies there.

He also announced he will be advertising on the broadcasts of the University of Arkansas baseball games. He said that considering they are a very good team, this should provide plenty of exposure for the city. He mentioned that the management of Arvest Park in Springdale had also contacted him about advertising opportunities.

Also, he has been working with City Preservation Officer Glenna Booth and videographer Nathan Crowder to produce "a cool look at Eureka Springs." They have created 15 vignettes of neighborhoods around town which tell interesting and little-known stories about the town.

Maloney reported that he received a funding request of $6,500 from the Eureka School of the Arts (ESSA). Funds would cover the costs of printing and direct mail for advertising several events during the year.

Commissioner Joe Joy asked, "Why would we fund their catalogue? That's not what we do. We're in the business of marketing the city." Ragsdell pointed out that the $5,000 ESSA received last year was for advertising, not for their catalogue.

Maloney suggested the CAPC assist with the television PSAs and also help negotiate advertising rates, but this year he felt they should offer only $500 to help cover direct mail expenses. Commissioners unanimously agreed.

The next workshop is Wednesday, March 14, at 4 p.m. at the CAPC office. The next regular meeting is Wednesday, March 28, at 6 p.m.

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