Beaufort bed-tax grants remain behind schedule

emoody@beaufortgazette.comOctober 1, 2013 

Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling presents St. Helena Island resident and "American Idol" finalist Candice Glover with a key to the city of Beaufort during her hometown visit May 4, 2013, in Beaufort. The Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce received a $10,000 accommodations tax grant to help pay for the event.

DELAYNA EARLEY — Staff photo Buy Photo

Beaufort-area nonprofit organizations and event planners will have to wait a few weeks longer to apply for accommodations-tax grants from the city.

The grants are typically applied for and awarded in early fall, but the process got off schedule last year when city officials decided to revise the applications.

City Council eventually awarded about $170,000 in May to more than a dozen groups and events. Officials said then they would try to get back on schedule for the fall grants.

But the chairman of the committee that advises council on the grants said Tuesday he hoped a recommendation would come to council before the end of the year.

The accommodations tax, often referred to as a "bed tax," is a levy on overnight lodging to fund programs promoting tourism and attracting visitors.

The current and former chairmen of the Tourism Development Advisory Committee are preparing new grant applications.

Chairman Chip Dinkins said the applications could go out in a few weeks, and applicants would have about a month to respond. Meetings and interviews would follow.

Dinkins and former committee chairman Jeff Evans are reconciling discrepancies between the applications and new rules approved last year. According to the new rules, awards are to be made on a number of criteria, including the applicant's accountability and cooperation with other groups. Applicants should fit into at least one of four categories: history and culture groups, events and festivals, the arts, or outdoor recreation.

"There was confusion about what we were looking for and what we are actually asking about in the application," Dinkins said.

The Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce, which is the designated marketing organization for the city, has a larger role under the new rules. That includes helping the groups cooperate and determining the best way to spend the money. Robb Wells, director of the chamber's tourism division, said some kinks need to be worked out.

One concern is that organizations and events are reimbursed for expenditures, rather than receiving funding up front. If an organization wants to start a new event and use an accommodations-tax grant as seed money, reimbursement could be difficult, Wells said.

And although several groups joined together in applying for the spring grants, most of those partnerships were out of necessity; Wells isn't sure all the organization leaders fully understand the point of the partnership requirement.

The chamber should be able to help review applicants, however, because it has been tracking detailed data about visitors during events such as the Beaufort International Film Festival, he said. The advisory committee will have statistics to help guide its decisions on which organizations and events deserve money and how much.

Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.

Related content:

The Island Packet is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service