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10 thoughts on “Good work (if you can get it)

    • NFB

      A “debate” requires two sides to participate and the TDA has made it abundantly clear that it has absolutely no interest in discussing the nature of its work or the status of the law that prevents one penny of room tax money to go to the city to help pay for services tourists use while they are here, or the role the TDA has played in the exploding housing costs that price out the people who clean the rooms the tourists use and carry their water in the restaurants where they dine.

      The director of the TDA is paid for by tax dollars, via an entity created by the state of NC and, theoretically anyway, answerable to Buncombe County Commission making her $450,000+ annual salary (slated for more than $575,000 in 2026) fair game for criticism.

      Perhaps, just perhaps, if the TDA were to quite showing such contempt and disdain for the local yokels it continually gives the middle finger to whenever they express a desire for a change in the law so that a portion of the room tax can help alleviate some of the negative aspects of tourism such a cartoon might not have been drawn. As long as the TDA sees Asheville as a commodity to be sold, rather than a community to live in, expect more cartoons like this. Satire is often the only tool the plebes have.

      Don’t like the results? Then work to do something about the attitude that created it.

      • Hiram

        Love this! Well said…and for anyone who’s literate, please read the Watchdog piece and you’ll see how whacked, inaccurate and tone deaf Durden’s comments are.

      • James

        The TDA has been an active partner in this community for 40 years. Many of the people involved, including Durden, are from this area originally. They have grown up in an industry that has helped revitalize this town. Local hoteliers are the ones that successfully got the Buncombe County legislation changed to the limit of the state guidelines last year. Now one-third of occupancy tax goes to tourism-related projects with local government and non-profits. Two-thirds does go to marketing, per the state guidelines. These tourism businesses pay property tax and for water just like any other business.

        The CEO is paid by occupancy tax dollars paid for by visitors, and answers to the BCTDA board, not county commissioners.

        • NFB

          The law in NC is that county commissions decide whether or not to have a TDA. The CEO may answer to the TDA Board, but its existence, and to a certain extent, its funding, is controlled by commission.

          About ten years ago there was a proposal to raise the room tax from 4% to 6%, with that extra 2% going to the city to help it pay for services tourists use while they visit. This was vehemently opposed by the TDA who, claimed that it would result Asheville losing tourists to Gatlinburg and Myrtle Beach (as if either of those places have the Biltmore House or downtown Asheville) because it would make hotel rooms more expensive (as if anybody plans their trips based on what a hotel room will cost them rather than picking where they want to go and then finding a room that fits their budget.)

          Thus the proposal went nowhere.

          A couple of years later the TDA was shifting into freakout mode because so many hotels were being built and they were afraid there would not be enough tourists to fill them. What did they do? They went to the state legislature and got an option for a 2% raise in the room tax to fund local TDA’s. The TDA then went, and got, the 2% take hike approved by Buncombe County Commission. As long as it fattens its slush fund the TDA has no worries if a tax will make hotel rooms too expensive. That is only a concern when it might offer just a mite of help to the serfs who clean the hotel rooms that pay Ms. Isley’s exorbitant salary.

          There have been calls for County Commission to abolish the TDA, so yes, it does have some accountability to County Commission. That BCC has declined to exercise that accountability is another topic.

          Here is the Watchdog piece Hiram mentioned above:

      • Frank

        Me thinks NFB doesn’t understand irony. It’s also telling that MountainX would produce this type of cartoon without doing its own original research. Simple google searches can show Isley’s compensation for a position like hers is well under the average. Oh, and you the artist left the A off of BCTDA.

          • James

            Since you asked, and Molton doesn’t do their own research, the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority CEO makes more, receiving a base salary of $430,927 and a recent incentive bonus of $119,211, for managing a budget relatively the same size.
            Isley wasn’t recruited here to be the county or city manager, so comparing her compensation package to individuals who made their career choice to work for city and county government isn’t relevant.
            But for the sake of argument, simple google searches show that there are executive base salaries for nonprofits in our area at $307K, $555K and $285K. Base salaries for other competitive regional destination execs for Savannah, Myrtle Beach, Nashville, Chattanooga and Charleston are $345K, $378K, $1.1M, $278K and $312K. Watchdog or MountainX couldn’t be bothered to find this easily accessible information themselves? Why was retirement factored in to total compensation for Isley but no other individual? Makes you wonder…
            I’m not for or against tourism or Isley, but on the face of it, this doesn’t seem like fair or accurate reporting.

  1. Zach Wallace

    ” platform for civil dialogue on the issues we face together as a local community. Xpress is committed to offering this platform for all voices, but when the tone of the discussion gets nasty or strays off topic, we believe many people choose not to participate.”

  2. Mike Rains

    Just got back from a short visit to Bend Oregon. Very similar in many respects to Asheville (city size, tourism town, etc.).

    Oregon has no state sales tax. They have put in restrictions on house valuations for property taxes such that the average person doesn’t get sqeezed out of their home as market values rise.

    With respect to their tourism promotion, they seem to have a much fairer model than NC and the BCTDA. Here it is in a snapshot from their website:
    What happens to room tax revenue collected for short-term lodging in Bend?
    A: Anyone staying in a Bend hotel, vacation rental, or other short-term lodging pays a 10.4% tax to the City of Bend. There’s an additional 1.5% statewide transient room tax (TRT) that goes to Travel Oregon, which is the statewide tourism bureau.

    Of the 10.4% hotel tax collected by the City of Bend, Visit Bend receives 31.2% that’s earmarked for marketing our destination to potential visitors. The City uses the remainder of the tax money (68.8%) for its General Fund as well as Public Safety, which includes police and fire. In fiscal year 2018/2019, the City retained $6,999,471 from TRT revenue.

    How much does Visit Bend make?
    A: Nothing. Visit Bend is a not-for-profit entity, so all room tax revenue received goes directly back into serving its mission.

    What is Visit Bend’s annual budget, and how can this money be spent?
    A: Visit Bend has budgeted to receive $2.1 million from transient room tax revenue in fiscal year 2020/2021. An additional $150,000 comes from retail and advertising sales, bringing the organization’s total projected budget to $2.25 million. To see Visit Bend’s FY 20/21 Business Plan, go here.

    Oregon’s state laws and Bend’s city code are strict about how Visit Bend can spend the money it receives from room tax collections. By law, the funds must go toward the promotion of tourism. The portion of room tax dollars that go into the City of Bend general fund are not restricted by this law.
    Don’t hold your breath about NC or BC making any changes like this. It’s clear to me that the TDA design essentially prostitutes Asheville for wider western NC growth. The recent 1/4 to now 1/3 of funds to go towards ‘tourism related infrastructure’ was an appeasement by Raleigh from recent complaints. In that same bill, they greatly increased the amound of “operational funding” allowed which comes from the gross proceeds of the occupancy tax; thus the exhorbitant salary of the director as well as an excessively large staff and lots of fun travel/trips around “searching for new tourists”. Oh well. Here’s an example of how the money get’s divided up:

    $40 million in occupancy tax received.
    Buncombe County can take up to 5% for collecting the tax. It likley doesn’t cost the county this much to collect but whatever. So that’s $2M gone. The BCTDA can use up to 20% of this $38M net for their “operational” expenses. So that’s $7.6M for salaries. So now we’re down to $30M of which 2/3rds can be spent on actual tourism promotion (like advertising maybe travel junkets (not sure) , etc. and the other 1/3 on tourism related projects which is turning into appeasing the restless natives that some of this money is coming back into the community; just not core services or infrastructure…that is not allowed.

    And while some my support the excessive salarly of the director based on the what the “market” requires, it is still a slap in the face to the City and County Managers who are responsible for a much more diverse, difficult and much higher budgeted functions such as managing this crazy city and county.

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