Nonprofits disappointed over hotel-motel tax fund requirements
June 20, 2012 at 1:20 a.m.
Updated June 21, 2012 at 1:21 a.m.
Getting a piece of the HOT fund action may be more difficult than some Victoria organizations imagined.
The city anticipates collecting $2.9 million in hotel occupancy tax dollars, 15 percent of which, or $455,228, can be spent freely on promoting arts, sporting events and historical preservation, so long as those events support the hotel industry.
While Victoria City Council has not decided how much of the 15 percent to allocate toward the HOT fund program, area organizations are already submitting their applications, hoping for a cut.
Marie Franks, of the Victoria Art League, a local nonprofit, attended the city's second HOT fund information session Wednesday, trying to get details on how to apply and the rules of the game.
Franks wants to find funding for a new roof and new floor for the more than 100-year-old building the Art League operates from.
"We've never applied before, and we'll probably get rejected, but maybe I'll get a critique that will help for next year," Franks said.
She said the improvements will help bring in more weddings and events, and with that, overnight guests.
"Right now, we're limited to those who like 'rustic,'" she said, drawing attention to the building's plywood floors.
The informal meeting gave local organizations a chance to learn the rules of the HOT funds game, and how to submit applications that can be accepted and approved.
According to the state tax code, hotel occupancy tax can only be used to promote tourism and the convention and hotel industry. The deadline to apply is June 29, and applications should be submitted to the city attorney's office, 105 W. Juan Linn St., or electronically.
"This should not be 'gotcha' politics," said City Attorney Thomas Gwosdz. "You've got to get across my desk to get to the committee."
City council receives recommendations from a five-person committee that decides which groups should receive what amount of the hotel tax dollars.
The committee includes Charles Grant and Zona Sweeney, who represent the hotel industry; Vic Caldwell, representing sporting organizations; George Matthews, representing the arts; and Sheron Barnes, representing historic preservation.
The group was formed to remove direct political pressure from city council, which was previously responsible for doling out the cash.
"They're looking for organizations that are doing good for the community as a whole," Gwosdz said.
Last year, local organizations requested $480,000 in funds, but the committee was limited to allocating only $172,000. In the end, about $217,000 was spent, which includes the funding for Victoria Texas Independent Film Festival.
Randy Lance, representing Riverside Golf Course, left the meeting disappointed.
Sporting events have more stringent requirements and must bring in crowds that "substantially increase economic activity at hotels and motels," according to the tax code.
Lance said he hoped to receive HOT funds to help pay for improvements to the golf course, which would make their tournaments more attractive to out-of-town golfers.
"We're trying to grow events, but the events we're talking about right now don't bring in 50 percent to hotels," he said.