Even though Clark County Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak isn’t on the 14-member Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority Board of Directors he thinks it’s too large and wants some community representatives, such as Mesquite’s, removed.
Sisolak is one of 11 members on the Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee formed by Gov. Brian Sandoval. Sisolak represents a large swath of metropolitan Las Vegas and rural areas of Laughlin, Jean and Primm.
The February minutes of the Tourism Infrastructure committee say “Mr. Sisolak expresses his concern about the composition of the LVCVA’s board of directors. There are individuals from small areas, such as Mesquite, that do not have the expertise that industry members have as it relates to LVCVA’s projects. Mr. Hornbuckle (President, MGM Resorts International) agrees that this issue needs to be addressed. He is also concerned that a representative from Mesquite is going to want to preserve what Mesquite is allocated, and this does not serve the interest of the community that is trying to drive tourism.”
The minutes show the discussion leading up to Sisolak’s comments centered on renovation and maintenance funding for the Las Vegas Convention Center.
George Rapson was appointed to the LVCVA board when he was elected to Mesquite City Council in 2011. Rapson has more than 14 years of gaming and casino experience with local casinos.
Rapson refutes Sisolak’s contention that smaller communities such as Mesquite and Boulder City should not have a seat at the table when it comes to spending room tax dollars that funds LVCVA activities saying in an email to the Commissioner “Frankly, this idea is both impertinent and narrow-minded.”
Rapson reminded Sisolak that Mesquite provides its fair share of room tax revenue and he generally votes with the majority other board members.
“Since financial participation and voting cannot be the reason for suggesting elimination of Mesquite’s seat on the LVCVA Board, I can only assume that you have some other motive. Bluntly put, there appears to be no good reason. Your actions smack of political pandering and completely lack any substance,” Rapson said in his email.
He reminded Sisolak that Nevada Revised Statutes dictate the board’s composition and would require legislative action to alter it.
“The composition of the board cannot be changed in any other manner. Choose this path and we will vigorously fight it,” Rapson said.
Sisolak replied to Rapson in an email saying that the 2005 Legislation increased the board’s number to 14 and gave Mesquite and Boulder City permanent seats rather than rotating between the two.
“While the City of Mesquite still provides a portion of room taxes for the LVCVA, the economy is still recovering from the recession, and growth across Clark County has not returned to levels prior to 2008. It should be noted, that the largest percentage of the room taxes for the LVCVA comes from the Las Vegas metropolitan area,” Sisolak said.
“With the increased number of visitors to Southern Nevada as well as new ventures to attract new types of visitors, the composition of the LVCVA Board may be too large and also not representative of the demands from the tourism industry. In order to continue to market Southern Nevada, the LVCVA Board could be revised to ensure that all members are representative of the diverse interests of the rapidly growing industry. My comments were merely reflective of the current trends in tourism in Southern Nevada.
“The Southern Nevada Tourism Infrastructure Committee was created by the Governor to identify and prioritize tourism improvement projects in Southern Nevada as well as explore potential funding mechanisms to support new tourism-related initiatives. If others agree that make-up of the LVCVA board should be changed, that recommendation could be included in the Committee report that is due in July,” Sisolak said in his email to Rapson.
In a telephone interview with the Mesquite Local News, Sisolak expressed concerned that the LVCVA Board did not have experts experienced enough to handle hundreds of millions of dollars coming into the organization. “I feel there should be a stronger representation in areas like finance and construction as it pertains to Las Vegas Boulevard and the renovation, expansion or upkeep of the Las Vegas Convention Center. We should look at the whole composition. Should Clark County and the City of Las Vegas each have two people on this Board?”
Sisolak added the Tourism Infrastructure Committee is looking at raising the room tax added to all hotel charges in southern Nevada “at the same time capping the distribution of the tax to all the entities which includes Boulder City, Mesquite, Clark County and others. The ‘Delta’ (difference) would not go to the collecting people it would go to the Convention Authority.”
He said some committee members don’t think the room tax funds funneled through the LVCVA should go to the cities’ general funds “which is what’s happening or if it should be going for these other purposes or directly for tourist-related issues.”
He added that he wants to give the room tax monies that Mesquite collects directly back to Mesquite “and let them spend the money there to promote tourism. I’m asking for more flexibility for the communities where the money is collected on how those dollars are spent.”
“I think it’s something worth talking about,” Sisolak said.
LVCVA budget documents show that Mesquite’s room and gaming tax contribution in FY16 is targeted at $924,100 with $860,822 tagged for return to the city’s general fund. The Authority works hand-in-hand with the Mesquite Resort Association, comprised of executives at Mesquite Gaming and Eureka Casino Resort, to determine tourism-related events for which it helps provide funding like the Classic Car Show and Hot Air Balloon Festival.
That support is pegged at $1.2 million for FY16. However, the bulk of those dollars, $937,200, goes from the LVCVA to a third party public relations firm for advertising and promotions, web site research, and public relations for Mesquite’s tourism industry. The LVCVA also supports the Visitor Information Center at I-15 Exit 122.
Sisolak seemed unaware that agreements between various entities determine the division of collection allocation and “may be designated by the individual entities for any purpose.” Distribution is based upon state demographer population figures.
“The agreement adopted in FY 2007 maintained the reimbursement allocation up to the level as paid in FY 2007. Reimbursement above the baseline is paid to the entity that collected the increase. If revenue falls below the FY2007 level, the agreement reverts back to the one adopted in 1995 which is based solely on population with a set percentage for the cities of Mesquite and Boulder City. As the collection allocation budget in FY 2016 is above the FY 2007 level, entity distribution is based on the 2007 agreement.”
Nevada Revised Statute 244A.603 says the LVCVA Board of Directors must include the following from Clark County:
–two (elected) county commissioners,
–two (elected) members of the city with the largest population
–one (elected) member of the city with the second largest population
–one (elected) member of the city with the third largest population
–one (elected) member of the incorporated city with the smallest population
–one (elected) member of one of the other incorporated cities
–three members selected from a list of nominees submitted by the chamber of commerce of the city with the largest population
–two members who are representatives of tourism
–three members selected from a list of nominees submitted by the association of gaming establishments whose membership in the county collectively paid the most gross revenue fees to the State