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Council discusses passing out hotel-motel tax money

DAVID TEWES

By DAVID TEWES
March 29, 2010 at 8:01 p.m.
Updated March 28, 2010 at 10:29 p.m.


Some left Victoria's city council meeting satisfied Monday and others didn't.

The council took the initial vote to dole out $55,900 in hotel-motel tax money to seven of the nine nonprofit groups that had requests totaling $181,050.

Monday's decision left $81,100 in hotel-motel tax money to spend and the council planned to discuss funding for the two remaining agencies next week.

A second vote of approval is needed before any of the funding decisions become final.

"None of these groups are bad groups," said Mayor Pro Tem Tom Halepaska after the council tentatively agreed to cut most of the requests. "Basically, it comes down to we can't pay money we don't have."

The non-city agencies requesting money include those involved with the arts and historical preservation, things that would bring visitors to Victoria to spend more money. In theory, that would increase the hotel-motel tax, which also helps fund the Victoria Community Center.

The good news is that both city staff and a Victoria businessman said the economy appears to be looking up, which could translate to more income from the bed tax.

"This year is unlike last year because we are busy downtown," said James Wearden, who only described himself as a businessman. "Last year we thought the bottom dropped out."

The city's sales tax income earlier in the budget year was coming in about 20 percent below budget. City Manager Charles Windwehen said the city is now projecting a shortage of only 10 to 15 percent.

"The reports we are hearing are that the industry is improving," he said.

One group that left unhappy was the African-American Chamber of Commerce, which had not been considered for funding. It did not seek money during the city's application period, which chamber spokesman Ron Peace said few knew about.

"It was a bit disappointing," he said. "It was disappointing we did not know as a chamber of commerce we would not be considered for these grants tonight."

City officials countered that the information was published in the Advocate, was on the city's Web site, was discussed during council meetings and was on the city's cable television station.

Mayor Will Armstrong and Council Member Paul Polasek argued there should be only one chamber in town, the Victoria Chamber of Commerce, that represents all groups.

Polasek also noted that help is available to the African-American Chamber of Commerce through the Victoria Convention and Visitors Bureau for the types of events it sponsors.

Polasek also questioned what would happen if the city let one group that missed the deadline apply for funding.

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