Twenty-eight Hilton Head organizations or events could be sharing part of $4.1 million in tourist tax money to cover future tourism-related expenses.
And the town itself wants to keep the biggest piece of the accommodations-tax pie.
The Hilton Head Accommodations Tax Advisory Committee recommended Thursday to award a total of $4,121,330 in grants, including $1.4 million to the town, though its share would decrease by more than $37,000 compared to last year’s awarded amount. Town Council has final say on grant recipients and amounts.
Town staff attorney Brian Hulbert said A-tax funds granted to the town could go toward, for example, extra law enforcement and fire rescue needed because of tourism.
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Accommodations-tax grant funding comes from a 2 percent tax on hotels, motels, inns and vacation rentals. The money is used to promote tourism and fund tourism-related activities.
The Arts Center of Coastal Carolina was at the center of a recent funding debate by Town Council, which in a split vote approved $575,000 to the center to replace its lighting system. The center requested an additional $416,000 in accommodations-tax funding but was awarded $385,000 by the tax advisory committee — a proposed decrease of $15,000 from last year.
“They’ve been great to our community both in the past and present, but as we look forward, the effectiveness of $416,000 investment of a-tax funds is a little high for me,” committee member Mike Alsko said during Thursday’s meeting. “Is the arts center really a driver of tourism or an enhancer of tourism? Because I think there’s a disconnect. … I would not be in favor of full funding of the arts center.”
Other committee members were generally in agreement.
“What I see from a community standpoint is we seem to be piecemealing the issues with the arts center,” said committee member Roger Freedman. “We have to make a strategic focus of making a decision about the whole instead of parts, and putting little patches here and little patches there, and decide as a community that we value this or we don’t value it, and not throw pieces of money at it to keep (it) going along.”
Overall, 15 organizations would see an increase in grant funding or receive new funding; four would receive less money; and nine would remain unchanged from last year if Town Council agrees with the committee’s recommendations.
The Boy and Girls Club Pedal event did not request money last year but will receive $18,300 if the committee’s recommendations are approved. The First Tee of the Lowcountry disc golf tournament also did not request funding last year, but would receive $25,000.
The Hilton Head Island Airport’s request for $345,000 was denied. Records provided at the meeting show that the airport did not request funding last year.
The Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce and Visitor and Convention Bureau was awarded the biggest proposed increase — $80,000 — bringing its total recommended grant to $485,000. The grant would be in addition to accommodations-tax money awarded to the chamber annually as the town’s designated marketing organization for tourism.
More than $121,800 was set aside for a nonprofit to apply for later if there is a demonstrated need.
- Art League of Hilton Head: $65,000
- Arts Center of Coastal Carolina: $385,000
- David M. Carmines Memorial Foundation: $91,000
- Gullah Museum of Hilton Head Island: $50,000
- Harbour Town Merchants Association: $20,000
- Hilton Head Choral Society: $40,000
- Hilton Head Concours d’Elegance: $220,000
- Hilton Head Dance Theater: $15,000
- Hilton Head Island Airport: $0
- HHI Rec Association (Wingfest & Oyster Festival): $25,000
- HHI St. Patrick’s Day Parade: $17,580
- HHI Wine and Food, Inc.: $130,000
- HHI-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce VCB: $485,000
- Hilton Head Symphony Orchestra: $250,000
- Lean Ensemble Theatre: $30,000
- Lowcountry Golf Course Owners Association: $50,000
- Main Street Youth Theater: $15,000
- Mitchelville Preservation Project: $160,000
- Native Island Business & Community: $110,000
- Shelter Cove Harbour Company: $76,800
- Skull Creek July 4th Celebration: $16,250
- The Boys & Girls Club Pedal event: $18,300
- The Coastal Discovery Museum (Cultural & Eco-Tourism Programs): $279,000
- The First Tee of the Lowcountry operations: $20,000
- The First Tee of the Lowcountry Disc Golf tournament: $25,000
- The Heritage Library - History Day: $16,900
- The Heritage Library: $60,000
- The Sandbox: $50,000
- Town of Hilton Head Island: $1,400,000
Source: Accommodations Advisory Committee meeting Nov. 2, 2017