Half a year later than usual, Beaufort City Council is preparing to hand out accommodation tax grants to local organizations for events and promotional materials.
One group, however, has been cut out after deciding to move the centerpiece of its event to Charleston. The Independence Fund was in line for $5,000, but Tourism Development Advisory Committee members decided to cut that after learning the Lt. Dan Band concert will be in Charleston rather than Beaufort, chairman Jeff Evans said.
The committee made initial recommendations for divvying up the $196,000 from 2012 during the City Council work session Tuesday night.
"To be honest with you, I think some of these recommendations are in to begin getting us talking," Evans said when asked whether money could be earmarked for the Penn Center museum, if and when upgrades are planned.
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The committee also recommended putting aside $25,000 for way-finding signage in the city, which finance director Kathy Todd said she believes is not an allowable use.
The accommodations tax, often referred to as a "bed tax," is a levy on overnight lodging to fund programs promoting tourism and attracting visitors.
"We want to truly make sure this money is being spent the best it can to make sure those events are being promoted," Councilman Mike Sutton said.
Council discussed adding another $18,000 to the Beaufort Regional Chamber of Commerce's grant for the Visitors Center, and stipulating the money be used to track attendance at festivals and events that receive accommodations tax money.
Councilman George O'Kelley Jr. questioned the amount given to the chamber, because several of the grants for other organizations stipulated the money is to be spent with the chamber for advertising. In addition to recommendations of $50,000 for marketing and $25,000 plus $18,000 for the center, the chamber automatically gets 30 percent of accommodations taxes for being the city's Designated Marketing Organization
"Do you see any double dip or duplication here, or can you tell?" he asked the committee.
Evans said he thinks there is some, but chamber tourism division director Robb Wells said his job is to leverage the public grants with money from private organizations to double or triple the amount of advertising purchased.
Money not given out by council will be rolled forward and combined with 2013 accommodation tax money. That combined money is expected to be granted later this year.
Council must vote twice on the recommendations. The first vote could be Tuesday.
Here is a list of groups that requested money, their project, the amount requested and the amount discussed: