- Milton Buckelew
Don't Kill the Goose
Most of us are familiar with Aesop’s fable of the Goose and the Golden Egg. I have been a resident of Fredericksburg over the past 23 years and have never seen the bounty of golden eggs we have been blessed with. We are living in a time of abundance. Our local economy thrives and much of the reason for that is the fact that so many here have exercised their rights to open businesses and utilize their property in a manner in which it provides income. Over the past 60 years, we have successfully evolved from an agricultural center to a touristic one. That’s who we are, and it has provided a stabile income for most of us in this community.
During a recent City Council meeting, I presented a bubble chart that illustrates the ripple effect of tourist who lodge in Fredericksburg to celebrate special weekends, family get-togethers or simply to escape a stressful life they live during their week at home. During 2020, these guests spent approximately $74 million on lodging in Gillespie County and $52 million of that revenue was generated by people staying in short term rentals (STRs.) These numbers demonstrate what we already know: guests prefer to stay in guesthouses and B&Bs because they prefer an authentic or family type of environment when they visit Fredericksburg.
Do you know where a large amount of that money goes? As an owner of 4 guesthouses in town, I can tell you that a bulk of the revenue I receive from rentals goes to a local plumbing company, a local HVAC company, local cleaners, a local spa maintenance company, a local hardware company, locally based contractors, who provided construction and ongoing property maintenance, and a locally owned reservation services company. The linens are cleaned by a local company and the irrigation system is maintained by a local company.
Our city staff enjoy the salaries and benefits they receive partially because of the taxes paid by STRs, merchants and service providers that also pay full fare taxes.
This newspaper continues to be in existence because the local merchants and service providers that are greatly supported by the revenue generated by STRs advertise in it.
National industry research indicates guests will spend an amount equal to 40 percent of their lodging spend on local merchandise and services. That equates to an additional $30 million spent in Gillespie County in 2020, $20 million of that came from guests staying in STRs.
STR owners contribute substantially to the exemplary status of our schools because the property taxes STR owners pay are full fare. There are no homesteads or frozen taxes.
One would be hard pressed to identify a single commercial entity or local resident that does not depend on the revenue generated by the guests who lodge in STRs. Merchants, service providers and all of their staff depend on the revenue generated by STRs.
The Council voted in favor of STR regulations in 2018 that addressed permitting, noise, and parking, but the City has lacked the resources to enforce these regulations. However, a second code enforcement officer was recently hired by the City to enhance their ability to enforce the appropriate regulations already in place. Rather than creating new legislation designed to restrict the use of our personal property and businesses, let the new resources for enforcement play out.
I firmly advocate for the responsible management of short term rentals in Fredericksburg. It is my desire as an owner to ensure my guests align with local ordinances and regulations around noise and parking at my properties and demonstrate respect for all citizens of our community.
Let’s not kill the goose laying the golden eggs, rather let’s build on our success and economic stability by working together.