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November 16, 2013

Council seeks to cut chamber’s funds

Consideration of request tabled until December Greenville City Council meeting

GREENVILLE — A committee of Greenville City Council members is proposing to slash the tourism funding the Greenville Chamber of Commerce/Convention and Visitor’s Bureau was to receive this year.

Mayor Steve Reid questioned Tuesday where the amount the Tourism and Convention Advisory Board recommended be appropriated for the Chamber in this year’s city budget would be spent, while a Chamber official indicated the money was in line with what the agency had sought in previous years.

The Tourism and Convention Advisory Board heard requests Oct. 15 from more than a dozen organizations, each seeking a portion of the hotel/motel taxes the city collects.

The City of Greenville charges a tax of seven percent on each night’s stay in a local hotel or motel room and then divides the money among the various groups which have applied for the funds. The events they sponsor must enhance and promote tourism and/or the convention and hotel industry in Greenville.

The applications are reviewed by the board, which then makes recommendations to the council. The council has the final say as to what is eventually included in the annual city budget.

The city collected just under $391,000 in hotel taxes during the past year and the council had included $270,000 in tourism funds in this year’s budget. The board recommended $250,000 in appropriations be awarded.

Some groups saw their funding requests cut this year, as the board did not believe the events they sponsored did enough to draw overnight visitors to Greenville.

Main Street Program Manager Doyle Dick said the main criteria for awarding the funds is determining whether the events proposed would put “heads in beds” at local lodging operations.

“The only thing we really want to know is how many people spent the night,” Dick said. “What matters is, did they spend the night in a hotel?”

The board recommended the Chamber receive $123,500 this year, which is in line with the $125,000 the agency received in last year’s budget.

However Reid said the council’s tourism committee, which also included Velma Del Bosque-Hobdy and Renee Francey, recommended the Chamber’s appropriation be reduced by $48,500 this year.

Reid explained the committee asked the Chamber for an accounting as to how the money would be spent, as it appeared much of it would be used for salaries.

“And I don’t think that qualifies under our tourism regulations,” Reid said.

Chamber Tourism and Marketing Director Milton Babb replied the agency has always been up front about how the funds are to be used.

“This is a contract we execute each year with the city,” Babb said, adding the Chamber provides the council with a quarterly expense report. “I believe your contract has always been written and based on the Texas Tax Code.”

City Attorney Daniel Ray suggested approving the board’s recommendations, with the exception of the appropriations for the Chamber and the Disabled American Veterans — which is proposing to bring a regional conference to Greenville — until the Dec. 10 council meeting, in order to allow more time to go over both applications.

The measure passed on a unanimous vote of the council.

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