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County Council, September 5

Accommodation Tax Fund allocations for FY2104 – no surprises
A Vietnam Veterans Memorial coming to Patriots Point
Warwick Jones

Yesterday’s Finance Committee meeting was the first after the summer season - meetings are back to two a month instead of one. And the agenda for yesterday was very light.

There were three items on the agenda, and only one was of any import. It was the allocations of the projected 2014 Local Accommodation Tax receipts. The actual receipts are not yet known but Council, as usual, provides for a distribution in its yearly budget. The budgeted total distribution for FY 2014 was $250,000. This compared with $243,599 in FY 2013 and $122,049 in FY 2012. However, after the allocations were determined last year, Council member Summey successfully urged the Finance Committee to allocate $300,000 from the Fund’s surplus to finance a shuttle service from the Charleston International Airport to nearby hotels.

Viewers should press Download file to see this year’s allocations. Overall, allocations were relatively small, at least compared to the amounts requested. The major recipients - The Aquarium, Spoleto Festival and S.E. Wildlife Exposition, Patriots Point Development Authority- were the same. There were both additions to and subtraction from the names of the smaller recipients.

As in recent years, the Charleston Visitors and Convention Bureau (VCB) and the College of Charleston scored the applications as to the contribution likely to the County’s accommodation industry - after all, the tax is supposed to be funneled back to help the industry. Some years ago, Council asked the entities to develop and implement a scoring system to help take the politics out of determining the allocations each year. Further, late last year after Council approved the $300,000 allocation for a shuttle service from the Airport, Council member Schweers successfully led a move to limit consideration of allocations of Accommodation Tax funds to twice a year – at the annual and half-year budget considerations - and only after scoring by the VCB and the College of Charleston

Notwithstanding the efforts of Council, we are not sure that the allocations are politically untainted. Considering the very high scoring of the major beneficiaries and the low score of many of the smaller entities, we wonder why so many of the latter were even considered. Surely it makes more sense to give the majority of funds to the highest scoring applicants. The Patriots Point Development Authority received a score of 100, the maximum possible, and received $25,267, about 10% of the total available Accommodation Tax funds. But the allocation was less than 10% of what it sought and represented only a small proportion of its annual or development needs. The Company Company with a score of 18.6, received $4,708, about a quarter of what it sought.

The only comment in the discussion over the allocations came from Councilmember Darby who asked about a memorial for Vietnam veterans to be developed at Patriots Point. Mr. Mac Burdette, Executive Director of the Patriots Point Development Authority, was attending the Committee meeting and told members that the Authority was planning a memorial (in the form of an exhibition), the cost of which was expected to be about $300,000. A plan and budget are being developed. When completed at the end of this year, the Authority would be looking for funds to supplement those likely to be provided by the Town of Mount Pleasant.

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