Victoria Council allocates hotel tax to arts, history groups

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

Aug. 7, 2012 at 3:07 a.m.

Victoria's hotel tax stands to fund local arts and history organizations by $429,862 for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1.

City Council members unanimously approved a resolution Tuesday that allocates the portion of tax revenue to 12 local groups. However, Mayor Will Armstrong supported adding a Victoria College Foundation project to the list, which would cover state-of-the-art audio and visual equipment for the Leo J. Welder Center for the Performing Arts.

The foundation asked for one time expenditures for equipment and was denied because the citizens' committee, which recommends allocations to council, thought it would duplicate funding given to organizations that use the center.

Armstrong argued that the requested $307,000 expense "would go a long way toward making this a conference center, which we don't have in Victoria."

He suggested funding a portion of the foundation's request with excess hotel taxes of about $95,000.

"I see a tremendous opportunity and they're asking for help," Armstrong said. "We have collected this tax money from people who don't live here and I would very seriously like to entertain a motion to spend that on the college."

Victoria College President Tom Butler spoke during the council meeting to clear up "misperceptions" about the foundation's application and appeal.

The application was made on behalf of the Welder Center, specifically for the Welder Center, not the college, he said.

"What was requested was specialized equipment to improve acoustics and improve video performances at the Welder Center," Butler said. "The purpose was to promote tourism."

He said the equipment will outfit the center for musical performances, as well as video presentations that would appeal to business conferences and meetings.

"We believe those kinds of things are in keeping with the spirit of the HOT funds," he said. "You have to have the quality infrastructure in order to be able to market the facility."

He said the cost was "over and above" what the college can do.

Councilman Emett Alvarez asked whether the equipment was worn out at the Welder Center since it opened less than 10 years ago. Armstrong said the equipment never existed.

Councilman David Hagan said he did not support the appeal and voted for adopting the resolution as presented. The resolution passed unanimously after Councilman Paul Polasek made a motion to adopt it and Councilwoman Josephine Soliz seconded it.

"It's my understanding ... adopting this as it's presented by the committee does not finalize it," Polasek said.

He said he wants time to review the application before voting on an amendment to the resolution.

City Attorney Thomas Gwosdz applauded the committee for a thorough examination of all the applications.

"This is exactly how this process is supposed to work," he said about the appeal and council discussion.



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