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Budget ordinance to fund tourism projects

By BY MELISSA CROWE - MCROWE@VICAD.COM
Jan. 3, 2012 at 7:05 p.m.
Updated Jan. 2, 2012 at 7:03 p.m.


WHO GETS WHAT

The Hotel Occupancy Tax Fund Committee allocated money to seven of 12 entities that applied for money.

Theatre Victoria - $60,000Victoria Ballet Theatre - $31,000Museum of the Coastal Bend - $26,300Victoria Regional Museum Association - $24,000Victoria Symphony - $18,620Victoria Bach Festival - $11,700Quilt Guild of Greater Victoria - $2,180

Victoria tourist attractions stand to receive more than $173,000 from hotel/motel taxes.

The first reading of the ordinance Tuesday night during the city council meeting involves approving the transferal of $173,800 among seven entities.

During the public comment forum, members of the arts and historic preservation communities spoke out requesting more money and support. In total, 12 organizations asked for $418,775.

But the funding was kept at last year's amount despite an increase in hotel/motel taxes. About $600,000 is in the hotel/motel tax fund.

During the ordinance's public hearing, Amy Leissner, executive director of the Nave Museum, urged the council to support the arts.

As the city grows, improving quality of life should be acknowledged and the museum be allowed to grow, she said.

Others, including John Kisalus, of Victoria Preservation Inc., also asked for financial support. His organization was denied funding.

An outside committee of five Victoria residents reviewed applications and determined distribution of funds.

The committee included Charles Grant and Zona Sweeney who represented the hotel industry; Vic Caldwell, representing sporting organizations; George Matthews representing the arts; and Sheron Barnes, representing historic preservation.

City Attorney Thomas Gwosdz said the committee understood the good work each entity was doing in the community. He said the funding is intended to flow money back to the hotels and to have an impact on the lives of Victoria's residents.

After the public hearing, City Councilwoman Denise Rangel made a motion to add $100,000 to the ordinance.

"We've had a blessed year," Rangel said, explaining that she wanted to allocate more funds because there was more available.

Her motion died on the floor and was not voted on; however, she said she plans to bring up another motion to increase funding at the Jan. 17 meeting.

"It's not only for people who come in from out of town," Rangel said. "We are the art region for this area. It's an investment for the people in this community."

Rangel's motion received only mild support from council members, who did not want to micromanage the committee, which Mayor Will Armstrong said had completed its task.

Armstrong said there were other demands for the motel tax funds and agreed with a suggestion to save up for the proposed convention center.

Along with the first reading of the motel tax ordinance, the council read an ordinance to transfer $700,000 from the general fund to the Fire Department Building and Improvements Capital line item.

The funding will be used to build a "burn building" used in training.

The council approved a resolution to purchase a $313,318 sewer/pipeline cleaner, paid for by the Local Government Purchasing Cooperative, and a resolution to spend no more than $31,278 on tourism advertisements in Texas Monthly magazine.

In February 2010, the budget for Texas Monthly was $73,340.

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