Citing the potential impact of a proposed series of lectures and panel discussions, Hilton Head Island Town Council disregarded a tax panel's recommendation Thursday and awarded The Hilton Head Island Institute $25,000 in accommodation tax money.
The institute had asked for $150,000 to spend on the event which would be held next fall and feature lectures, panel discussions and workshops on a variety of social issues.
The Accommodations Tax Advisory Committee recommended last month that council deny the group funding because it was an unproven driver of tourism. Accommodation taxes -- also known as bed taxes -- are taxes on overnight lodging used to fund tourism related projects and organizations.
Several council members agreed that the institute was unproven but said the promise of the event was worth the risk.
"I understand that this is an organization that does not have a proven track record yet," Councilwoman Kim Likins said. "But there was a time when the Concours (de Elegance) didn't have a proven track record, when the Sandbox didn't have a proven track record, when the Wine and Food Fest didn't have a proven track record, and those organizations were given an opportunity to grow -- and look at what they've become today."
Councilman Bill Harkins said that the institute has "the potential of being the most transformational force or presence in this community."
In all, council committed just over a $1 million in accomodation-tax grants to 19 organizations during the panel's first meeting of 2013.
Other tax committee recommendations were not followed as well.
Council denied funding to three groups --The Italian American Club of Hilton Head, LoCo Motion and the David M. Carmines Memorial Foundation -- because it determined the money would be used for charitable donations, a use that falls outside the scope of the grants' intent.
A fourth group, the South Carolina Watermedia Society, had asked for $3,500. The tax committee had recommended the group receive $1,000. Council awarded the society no money.
Follow reporter Brian Heffernan at twitter.com/IPBG_Brian.