Next month will be a crossroads in the cultural evolution of our community when recommendations on how to best support Hilton Head Island's arts groups are made, backed in part by a town-sponsored survey of residents.
Well-publicized by the newspaper and others, the survey included more than 2,000 respondents. As with most elections and polls, only the motivated participated. But it is nonetheless statistically significant that two-thirds of respondents favored increased support from the Town of Hilton Head Island.
Recently, the state of Florida ran a full-page ad in the Wall Street Journal, touting the large number of $1 million-plus homes sold in the state, correlated with local cultural amenities. Studies confirm the affluent are attracted to, and are the main supporters of, the arts. We also have a robust affluent segment. If we want to maintain this upscale component of our economy and cultural lifestyle, we must compete.
The obvious problem is long-term, professional arts facilities funding. The tourist-based accommodations tax provides substantial support to the arts but has many other competing, legitimate claims. Private funding is unreliable. Only the town can raise reliable arts funding through taxation and bonds. The establishment of a real estate transfer tax, with an exemption on the first $500,000, is an ideal solution, placing a small, one-time burden on those who benefit most, with a revenue potential of $2 million annually and a borrowing power of at least $10 million.
Don G. Kennedy
Hilton Head Island