Advocate Editorial Board opinion: Events receiving HOT funds need scrutiny
By the Advocate Editorial Board
July 12, 2014 at 2:12 a.m.
The Victoria TX Indie Film Fest is attracting more attention for Victoria and the Crossroads. In only its third year, the festival has earned a strong reputation from filmmakers across the nation. One filmmaker is even considering moving to the area to finish a project and work for the festival.
The event has garnered a large amount of community support and draws from the city's hotel tax funds every year. The funds come from taxes levied on hotel and motel rooms purchased by visitors from out of town. State law mandates this money can only be used to promote tourism and the convention and hotel industry.
The Victoria Advocate Editorial Board has supported and endorsed the film festival since its creation. This is a wonderful event that brings in a variety of creative minds for members of the community and outside visitors to meet and interact with in addition to the quality films that Victorians normally would not have access to. But it is also the Advocate's responsibility as a community newspaper to look into how city funds are used.
This year, the festival is requesting $82,680 in reimbursements from the city's hotel occupancy tax funds. The money was used for a variety of needs, including flights, limousine rides to and from Houston, a 30-night hotel stay and thousands spent on food, drinks, salaries and other costs. That's almost double the reimbursements from the festival's first year in 2012 of $43,150 and more than $13,000 more than the 2013 total of $68,900. To receive the reimbursements, the event's staff will have to present receipts for the expenses.
The film festival's post-event report says the event attracts about 2,500 people, who rented 396 hotel rooms during the weekend, to downtown. This is encouraging news, and we hope to see the festival continue to grow as it progresses. And as it grows, we hope it will also eventually become a self-sufficient event that does not need city funds to function. The HOT funds are an important resource that serves a vital purpose. It offers a hand up to organizations and events that help attract tourists and visitors to our region. But just like with the city's Bootfest event, it is important to examine and reevaluate how the funds are distributed and spent every year to ensure they are always put to the most effective use.
There is no question that the film festival is making an impact and deserves support. But the amount of financial support that is necessary to put on this event must be carefully weighed each year and reevaluated after the event as a way to track the event's progress and growth. It is our hope that the film festival can come closer to being a self-sustaining event that will one day no longer need to apply for HOT funds for its yearly events, but we recognize this is a process.
As the festival continues to develop, we look forward to seeing what new things it will bring to Victoria in both talent and visitors. This event has potential to continue to become an amazing asset to the community. We hope its successes continue for years to come.
This editorial reflects the views of the Victoria Advocate's editorial board.