Art, history, sports groups to receive half million to aid tourism

Melissa Crowe By Melissa Crowe

Aug. 4, 2013 at 3:04 a.m.
Updated Aug. 5, 2013 at 3:05 a.m.

Taxes paid by Victoria's hotel guests will help fund 15 arts, sports and history organizations that drive tourism.

Victoria City Council is expected to vote Tuesday whether to accept the funding recommendations made by the hotel occupancy tax committee.

State legislation allows Texas cities to impose a tax on their local hotels and motel rooms up to 7 percent of room charge.

Victoria uses the maximum tax, which is then used to promote arts, tourism and conventions.

The seven-person committee stretched $562,230 to cover $811,000 in requests.

George Matthews, who took his third turn on the committee, said it was a challenge.

"All the groups need more money, there's no doubt of that," Matthews said.

At least two applications failed to meet the legal requirements for funding, said City Attorney Thomas Gwosdz.

State law dictates that hotel occupancy tax dollars can be used only to "promote tourism and the convention and hotel industry."

It also limits funding for arts organizations to 15 percent of hotel occupancy tax funds collected.

The largest recommended funding would benefit the Victoria TX Independent Film Festival.

Victoria Performing Arts Center made a request of $155,600 for the film festival and filmmaker incentives. That request is recommended to be funded at $82,680.

"It seems to be growing well, and it's expanded greatly," Matthews said of the film event.

Last year, the festival received $68,900 in funding from hotel occupancy taxes, according to the city budget.

Because the festival is a multiday event and is advertised at other festivals, it is growing and promoting tourism, Matthews said.

Former councilwoman Denise Rangel served on the committee for her first time.

The committee met twice before finalizing the recommendation on where the money should go.

"It's a really good system," Rangel said. "When you get seven people together, you get seven different opinions."

Vic Caldwell, who also served on the committee, said although there was money left over, they funded everything that promoted tourism.

"It's not that we didn't want to spend it - there was nothing we could have spent it on," Caldwell said.

With each request, Caldwell's litmus test was "How will it bring people to Victoria?"

"You have to make some tough decisions," Caldwell said. "We've yet to have enough money to give everybody what they want."

This year saw the first sports group apply for funding. Straight Arrow Archery Learning Center requested $2,500 and is being recommended for 100 percent funding.

Caldwell, who represents sports tourism on the committee, said there are challenges with sporting organizations getting funded.

They must prove half the attendees are from out of town, and they must be a nonprofit.

"I would love to see more non-art groups submit requests," Caldwell said. "If they'd asked for $5,000 and could support it, we probably would have given them $5,000."



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