North Tahoe conference center conundrum
Over the years the North Tahoe Community Conference Center developed into an asset for the local community, but operating the Kings Beach venue is a now a financial burden for the North Tahoe Public Utility District.
Faced with a continual operating deficit ” even amid the financial restructuring imposed over the past year ” the district’s board of directors is weighing its options over the future of the conference center.
Hopes lie in possible subsidies from Placer County and the surrounding business community, which both directly benefit when meeting rooms are booked at the lakefront center.
While a 2006 market study estimated the surrounding community made an additional $2.6 million that year from business directly generated by the conference center ” from visitors eating at restaurants and staying in nearby lodging ” the facility continues to operate at a loss for the North Tahoe Public Utility District, forcing the district to dip into its recreation budget.
The conference center lost $35,000 during the 2006-2007 fiscal year, said the district’s chief financial officer, Larry Marple. And while the loss is not nearly as severe as in years past ” compared to a negative $149,000 at the end of the prior fiscal year ” it is an expense the district eats.
“The bottom line improved, but it was still lost money,” Marple said in a phone interview Monday. “We needed to break even.”
In past reports, the district was optimistic that the conference center was digging itself out of debt at a fast pace. But the tone of district directors at their meeting earlier this month was gloomy.
“We either have to look at another business, or we have to look at somebody picking up the subsidy,” board President Lane Lewis said at the early-January meeting. “Because at this rate, we won’t have the money to maintain our recreation responsibilities with Measure C.”
The board has directed staff to research options that could subsidize the conference center’s operations. Staff has since gathered data outlining the economic impact the conference center has on the district, the surrounding community and Placer County ” information that would justify it receiving a subsidy.
While the facility stretches the district’s budget thin, the numbers reveal that the conference center is a profitable investment for the district’s residents, business owners and the county.
“Right at this moment, we are always concerned about operating the conference center at a profit or not a profit,” said board Member Frank Mooney at a committee meeting Wednesday. “To me, I’m operating the conference center at a profit ” tell me whose books I’m looking at.”
The county has invested more than $1 million into the conference center since 1988, according to data compiled by district Legal Counsel Neil Eskind. It has since recuperated about $1.25 million through Transient Occupancy Tax and sales taxes.
Data shows another cumulative $40 million in direct community benefit from the conference center over the past 20 years.
“Most conference centers around the country are publicly owned,” Eskind said. “And they expect to lose money.”
But the facilities’ worth is in the surrounding community, Mooney said. The conference center’s loss is the people’s investment.
The board will decide whether to pursue subsidies from Placer County at its next meeting on Feb. 12.
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