It’s millions of dollars about “butts in the seat,” flushing the toilet and what’s right

The biggest question the Ole Seagull has been asked in the last week concerns the relationship between the city gifting the airport tens of millions of dollars under the unconscionable Pay for Performance Agreement that the current board has “laundered and the raising of the water and sewer rates for Branson voters. Actually, it’s pretty simple, Branson only has so much revenue coming in to operate the city with.

Whatever is paid from that revenue for specifically designated extraordinary costs is obviously not available for other purposes such as the operational costs of running the city or, among other things, subsidizing the water and sewer rates of Branson’s voters. These extraordinary costs include but are not limited to paying for tens of millions of dollars in gifting to the airport, operational deficits at the convention center, fountain maintenance costs at Branson Landing and TIFs that gave developers millions and which result in a 50% city tax loss at Branson Hills and a 100% tax loss at Branson Landing.

“But Seagull why should the city subsidize the water rates of Branson voters?” For exactly the same reason some of the board of aldermen said the city should honor the agreement with the airport, “It’s the right thing to do,” except in this case it is actually the right thing to do.

During the election for the passage of the City of Branson’s Tourism Tax in the mid ninety’s the voters were promised that a portion of their tax would be used to subsidize their water and sewer rates if passed. Now if the Ole Seagull recollects correctly, the proof of the pudding in that regard is the fact that, from the approval of the tax by the voters up until approximately 2006, the water and sewer rates were subsidized. Then  the previous administration decided that the subsidy should be phased out and started a series of increases that is continuing even as this is being written. Does anyone recall when the Pay for Performance Agreement with the airport was originally signed?

An Ole Seagull just has to ask, “If we have millions to gift the Branson Airport, not even located within the city limits of Branson, paying minimal if any Branson city sales or property taxes and competing against Branson businesses that do pay Branson sales and other taxes why can’t we find the funds to honor our commitment to the voters who voted for the Tourism Tax and subsidize their water and sewer rates? Aren’t the voters entitled to at least the same “It’s the right thing to do” consideration that the board says the airport is entitled to?

“But Seagull the airport says it is bringing new people into Branson and each of them is paying city sales tax in multiples of the $8.24 that the city is paying them for each passenger. The Branson Lakes Area CVB and the rest of the mucky mucks who spoke at the November 25th meeting, which you called the ‘Steve Peet and Chris Jordon Branson Airport, Pizza, Burrito Dog and Pony Show,’ implied that the airport should be supported because it is bringing new visitors to Branson who are eating pizzas, burritos, filling theatre seats, attractions and restaurants.”

Now before we get too giddy here let’s acknowledge a couple of facts and ask ourselves a couple of questions. The first fact would be there was not one person in that room who spoke that night that had any evidence of how many of the people that the city was billed the $8.24 were actually “new visitors” to Branson, not one! The second fact is that as long as it’s a “butt in the seat or through the door” Branson shows, attractions, retail and other businesses, restaurants or the sales tax coffers of the city of Branson don’t care whether that “butt” came from the Branson Airport, the Springfield-Branson Regional Airport, car, bike, train, hitchhiking, horse and buggy etc.

And now the questions, If paying $8.24 cents is so wonderful for the city, why not pay it to those businesses that can in fact establish and prove that they bring a substantial number of new visitors to Branson? From Silver Dollar City to timeshares and receptives there are Branson businesses that spend millions of their own dollars bringing new visitors to Branson that receive no incentive from the city. Why not give them the same incentive? What’s going to put more butts in seats or get them through doors next year and into the future, the efforts of those businesses or the Branson Airport?” To an Ole Seagull the answer is obvious.

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