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City reviews budget for Visit LaGrange

Despite COVID-19 and the pandemic, Visit LaGrange is optimistic but being realistic for the coming year when it comes to tourism. 

On Tuesday, Visit Lagrange President Kathy Tilley presented the LaGrange City Council with the 2020-2021 budget for the organization. Visit LaGrange was established to be the destination marketing organization of the city of LaGrange, which receives the largest amount of hotel/motel taxes since it has the most hotels within its limits. 

“The first thing you see under income is the hotel/motel tax that we received from LaGrange,” Tilley said. “You will see this year we projected that we will receive $716,000, but I only budgeted $650,000. There’s a couple of reasons why. Number one, I tend to be a very conservative revenue budgeter.” 

Tilley said due to the uncertainty of COVID-19 effecting revenue in the fall, she wanted to budget on the safe side with a lower revenue number. 

In total budget income, which includes Troup County hotel/motel tax, miscellaneous revenue and interest income, the total is $702,700. 

For personnel expenses, the total budget is $111,052.

“Currently I am the only employee, and we do not have plans to hire any help this year,” Tilley said. “We aren’t really sure where this pandemic is going so if we need to change that, we can come back for a budget amendment.” 

Under tourism consultant, Tilley budgeted out $18,000. 

“There’s a couple of groups that will come in and help you sort of do an asset mapping of your tourism asset to make sure that what you are marketing is exactly what the people want to see,” Tilley said. “Or that you are marketing the things that are most popular. They also will help us in strategic direction to make sure that we’re not just doing this in one year, and that there is some continuity through the years.”

Tilley budgeted $302,100 for marketing and advertising expenditures, which include everything from freelance photography, brochure printing to art and creative design and more. 

“Under marketing and advertising, which is the core of what we do and what we are legally obligated to do under the laws of hotel/motel tax, we budgeted for brand leadership,” Tilley said. “That is to help keep our brand fresh and relevant in today’s marketing arena. We also have some money set aside for our creative design with content in search engine optimization. You’ll see that this year we spent $59,000 plus to create the Visit LaGrange website.” 

For the coming FYE, Visit LaGrange will not be making a new website but budgeted out funds to keep the website constantly updated and changing with current happenings in LaGrange, specifically based around COVID-19 closures and openings. 

“But there will be some pages that you do want to add so you will see website development, there’s an $8,000 fee,” Tilley said. “That is to add things like travel itineraries, any special events that we might have that might come up, and we also want to add biking trails.” 

LaGrange Mayor Jim Thornton said he was glad Tilley took a conservative approach to the budget due to the unknowns of tourism right now. 

“We know Great Wolf has reopened, and we know some of the other hotels are reopening. We just don’t have any sense of what’s going to happen with this coronavirus business as the next few months and the fall unfolds,” Thornton said. “One of the things that we were all very committed to certainly under the leadership of the city manager was the shifting to the modern form of communications and to do more digital social media, etc. but I think you can really take that to heart and really have done a great job with it. Moving into the corona world it is essential.” 

The budget also includes a $90,000 hosting fee that Tilley said will come from a fishing tournament that is expected to take place on West Point Lake. 

“We were approached by the USA Crappie Tournament for a three-day super tournament that they want to have next spring,” Tilley said. “Apparently, we had it here several years ago and the fishermen are very anxious to get back to West Point Lake. They said there could be 150 to 200 fishermen and about 80 boats.” 

Tilley said even though Visit LaGrange may not make back funds, the city, hotels, local restaurants and more will benefit from it. 

“The awareness of the city will benefit,” Tilley said. 

“Is it a good, clean event to happen? Yes.”

In total expenditures, Visit LaGrange proposed that it will spend $624,652 and have a net income of $74,048.