Editorials

There's oversight aplenty in bed-tax grant process

The city of Beaufort has done much in recent years to economize its operations, outsource non-essential services, and in short, pinch its pennies until Lincoln winces.

But for all its economizing, the city paradoxically has developed a penchant for needlessly complicating processes. It has public forums to discuss the results of charrettes, which are conducted by consultants, who are hired by staff on the recommendation of committees, which are appointed by elected officials.

The latest example is the City Council's plan to create a temporary committee to examine whether those getting accommodations-tax money are spending it to best effect.

The goal is laudable, but the route is redundant.

The city already has a Tourism Development Advisory Committee to recommend ways to award accommodations-tax grants. The council considers the committee's recommendations, then determines what groups will receive grants and in what amount. The oversight doesn't end there. The council is required to send an annual report of its decisions to the S.C. Accommodations Tax Oversight Committee, which passes questions about dubious expenditures to the Tourism Expenditure Review Committee, which is supposed to make sure money is being distributed and spent as state law prescribes.

True, just because money is spent lawfully does not mean it is spent efficaciously. Nonetheless, it is unclear how adding yet another participant to this gauntlet of supervisors will help Beaufort use accommodations taxes more wisely. To the contrary, it might simply create one more group to which the buck can be passed or at which fingers can be pointed.

That Beaufort's new committee would be temporary makes it no less redundant. If we need a 30,000-foot view of efforts to attract tourism-- state law requires the grants to be spent in this pursuit -- the duly elected council members ought to be up to that task.

If the council is wandering in the wilderness on this matter, it has only itself to blame. It has the authority to instruct the Tourism Development Advisory Committee to ask tougher questions of applicants and recipients. Failing that, the council can assign new members who will demand more of applicants.

And the elected officials have the final local say on how the money is spent. They should not outsource their own responsibility.

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