York County Council finalized changes Feb. 17 to its hospitality tax advisory committee, though not without concern following inclusion of a member from the Rock Hill-York County Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Council gave final reading to the latest changes for the group, formed last year to recommend which projects should be paid for with the 2-percent tax charged on food and drink in unincorporated parts of the county since 2007. The ordinance appoints the county treasurer as group liaison, rather than a CVB member as originally designated.
Council members debated for months what role the visitors bureau should have in hospitality tax committee decisions. The tax has been a funding source for the CVB. While the final version removes the liaison role from the bureau, it designates a 12th, ex officio member.
“That specifies it is the chairperson of the CVB,” said Michael Kendree, county attorney. “The chairperson and/or his or her designee.”
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That member does not vote but will participate in monthly group meetings.
“We’ve tried to fix this thing 10 or 15 different ways,” said Councilman Bruce Henderson, who represents Clover and Lake Wylie, and was the only council member against the final ordinance. “ I can’t support this based on the fact I feel like it’s putting the fox back in the hen house.”
Henderson says more hospitality tax revenue should go to the area generating the most money. The Carowinds area in Fort Mill brings in the most, largely from tourists. Lake Wylie restaurants come in next. Henderson and others in Lake Wylie say residents there foot the bill with relatively little in return.
Continued involvement by the visitors bureau, based in Rock Hill but serving the entire county, didn’t sit well with the councilman.
“History is a good predictor of the future,” Henderson said. “I just can’t support it.”
Hospitality tax money must go toward tourism-generating projects, from new facility construction to advertisement of festivals and events. The advisory committee will take and solicit requests, then make recommendations. The newest application forms also allow businesses to apply for money from the county’s hospitality tax for their advertising and even construction needs. Final funding decisions are made by Council.
Chairman Britt Blackwell is familiar with Henderson’s position, as the case for allocating more money to unincorporated areas isn’t new.
“I understand his concerns, because I’ve kind of watched the battles,” Blackwell said.
Blackwell said he hopes Council members don’t use the hospitality tax issue to advocate for one district over another. Blackwell wants to see the tax revenue used for the improvement of the county as a whole.
“Let’s make sure we don’t start to get into an east vs. west mentality with issues we face, because I can see us starting to head down that road,” he said.
The advisory committee meeting Feb. 17 to discuss online funding applications, county comprehensive planning and other issues was postponed because of inclement weather. That meeting was rescheduled at noon Feb. 23 at Rock Hill/York County Airport.
Weather also delayed three public hearings at the Feb. 17 Council meeting. Kendree said hearings to allow a new sewage pump station on 1180 Convention Drive in the Regent Park area of Fort Mill and a fee agreement in-lieu of taxes for machining company Schaeffler Group will have to wait. As will budgeting changes providing money for courthouse renovations in York and roof replacement at Moss Justice Center.
“Those will be re-noticed and heard at an upcoming meeting,” Kendree said.