Shutdown 2013: Small Park Town Says It’s Losing $175,000 a Week
The real-life implications of the partial-government shutdown may be tough to feel in Washington. The stories of small business owners highlight the negative side effects of the political negotiations.
Innkeeper Mary Foster cringed while flipping through her reservations ledger Tuesday afternoon.
“It’s insane. We’ve had so many cancel on us lately, this is like a ghost hotel,” Foster explained.
Foster, who bought the Mariposa Hotel Inn last year, said the recent federal government shutdown that shuttered Yosemite National Park is seriously hurting her business and most of the other small companies in the tourism-based downtown district.
The economy of the small mountain town of about 2,000 residents depends heavily on tourists who pass through on their way to the world-famous national park.
“It’s killing me, and it’s killing a lot of the small businesses in the whole county,” Foster said. “This is just ridiculous because it didn’t have to happen.”
Typically, her tiny six-room hotel is full, but this week Foster has just one paying guest. Since the Oct.1 shuttering of national parks, more than a dozen of Foster’s customers have called to say they are not coming anymore.
For a county government reliant on tax revenues generated by hotels such as Foster’s, the effects of the week-old federal shutdown have already hit home.
“Right now we’re losing $175,000 a week in (transient occupancy taxes),” County Supervisor John Carrier said during Tuesday’s regular Mariposa County Board of Supervisors meeting. “It’s about $20,000 a day in lost revenue to the county.”
The board is considering how the county will absorb its loses. More than 60 people packed the board chamber on Tuesday as the directors weighed their options, which County Administrator Richard Benson said could include layoffs, furloughs, spending cuts, tapping into the county’s reserve fund and shuttering all community libraries, parks and recreation programs and tourist visitor’s centers.
The county is “losing about $800,000 this month, but if you really step back and think about what that means to our small hotel operators, they’re losing about $8million,” Benson said after the meeting. “They’re already in a world of hurt.”
Supervisor Kevin Cann said Mariposa County received about $11.4million in transient tax revenues each of the last two years, which he said was more than 40percent of the county’s general fund.
The board ultimately made no decisions on Tuesday and directed county department heads to crunch more numbers to try to find ways to cut spending, save money and report back during a special meeting set for Oct.29. County officials indicated that, if the shutdown ends before Nov.1, county employees will not feel any impact. But after Nov.1, all bets are off.
“The longer this goes on, the more costly it will be,” Carrier said.
Downtown business owners are on edge.
“You can just see it in everybody’s face; nobody in general knows what’s going to happen,” said Lauri Kanarowski, owner of Yosemi-Tea & Coffee on Highway140.
The shutdown is worsening the impact of a tough couple of years for the shop owners and hotels that rely on the park to bring in the tourists. Between the spread of the hantavirus last year, the Rim fire earlier this summer, and now the park’s closure because of a political fight thousands of miles away, businesses are fed up.
“Everyone is losing money right and left,” Kanarowski said. “That’s money that’s just gone; they’re not going to be able to recoup that.” Benson said many in Mariposa County hope that the federal government will end the stalemate as soon as possible.
For innkeepers such as Foster, every day the shutdown continues means more money that will never come through the door.
“People come from all over the world to see the park; those are the tourists,” she said, “and this whole thing is just a great big black eye for the whole country.”
(c)2013 the Merced Sun-Star (Merced, Calif.). Distributed by MCT Information Services.