An economic analysis of how the community of Killington raises
and spends money on economic development and tourism has
recommended a litany of changes to improve Killington's status as a
The analysis, which was commissioned by the Killington Chamber
of Commerce and conducted by Carl Ribaudo of the Strategic
Marketing Group in Tahoe, California, was recently released and was
intended to sharpen the focus of a discussion that has been ongoing
for the past three years.
Specifically, the chamber charged Ribaudo with analyzing how
Killington could best improve the way it funds and manages economic
development, including town, chamber and EDT department.
Ribaudo met with 13 town and business leaders while conducting
his study. While his suggestions focused on some of Killington's
long-standing concerns - getting out from under the town debt at
the golf course was one - he also provided an outside perspective
on ways to reduce the duplication of economic development efforts
within the community, and emphasized the need for Killington to
improve its visual appearance and signage if it is to be an
attractive destination resort.
The 21-page-report was divided into four main sections:
Situation Analysis, Key Issues, Options for Consideration, and
Additional Key Recommendations.
The first section, Situation Analysis, focuses on what is
happening in and around Killington related to economic development
and tourism. Ribaudo reported that a lot had changed since the EDT
was originally created with a 1 percent local options tax dedicated
to the department.
In a letter from Killington Chamber of Commerce President Chris
Karr to the select board, Karr explains "since 2008, the EDT has
transitioned from being a semi-autonomous entity with a dedicated
and restricted funding source to being a town department funded by
annual general fund appropriations."
That transition occurred after the $5 million golf course debt
came to light, which forced the town to reconsider how it directed
its economic development funding - reducing that amount to more
quickly pay off the debt.
This section of the report also discusses how the national
recession, increased competition from other resort communities and
other factors have affected funding and tourism outside of
The second section, Key Issues, primarily analyzes funding
sources. Notably, Ribaudo said that Killington currently funds
tourism at a low level, stating that anything below $1 million
annually is a small amount of funding for a destination marketing
effort. This year Killington allocated $402,822 to the EDT.
Ribaudo also observed that the local options tax is an
inefficient funding source as the town loses 30 percent in taxes to
the state each year (as does every other town in the state that
imposes a local options tax. It is state law.) He notes that
because of the pressures on the town budget, which has held the
line on property taxes while paying down the golf course debt,
there has been a sizable decrease in the allocation of economic
development dollars from town revenues.
Options for Consideration
Based on Killington's goals of improving the local tourism economy
and resolving the golf course debt, Ribaudo provides a series of
recommendations in the third section of the report,
OPTIONS FOR CONSIDERATION
The first option Ribaudo presents is to reduce the 30 percent that
flows to the state. This option would require the town to seek
legislative changes that would allow that 30 percent to be used
locally. The argument is that money used locally on economic
development projects will ultimately increase property taxes and,
therefore, increase revenue to the state.
The second option presented was to repeal the 1 percent tax and
replace it with a voluntary assessment. If the town could secure
full participation from businesses, this option would also save the
30 percent that typically flows to the state.
A third option is to more aggressively pay down the golf course
debt, which the town has already planned to do and many residents
feel the current plan resolves the debt in a reasonable and
responsible manner - a subject that has been thoroughly discussed
in town for the past year.
A fourth option would be to sell the golf course and use the
funds to accelerate the debt payments. And a fifth option is to do
nothing and maintain the same course of action.
Few people, according to several local business leaders, are
seriously considering options four or five.
In the final section of the report, Additional Key Recommendations,
Ribaudo recommends important structural and procedural changes for
the Chamber, EDT and overall town appearance. Those recommendations
• Evolving the role of the Chamber to focus on member advocacy,
networking and benefit programs, so as not to duplicate efforts and
• Developing more consistent funding for the EDT and allow more
flexibility with how it allocates that funding. This will allow for
a longer-term economic development and tourism plan.
• Encouraging the town to improve the visual appearance of its
commercial areas, specifically suggesting improvements to
Killington's entrance and signage. The importance of an updated
appearance is evident in a chart showing how other destination
resorts in the state have seen growth since 2003 where Killington
reports a loss.
Ribaudo cited a letter submitted by the Chamber observing "in
order for the town and community to remain competitive as a
destination and improve the quality of life for residents,
Killington needs to foster major public/private investment."
In a recent select board meeting that reviewed the report, Karr
noted that the report has already achieved part of its mission,
which was to help kick-start a productive conversation in the
"We believe we can improve on the status quo and that we have
unique and valuable perspective on the issues," Karr stated in the
Chamber letter. "After three years of these initial efforts, we
thought it would be wise to step back, look at the big picture, and
consider how we can continue to improve… Our Town has made very
strong progress in this area over the last three years, and we can
do even more. We must do more."