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Council approves operations bump for hospitality money

York County Council upped the amount of hospitality tax money they can spend on operations, while setting up most of the group that will steer future requests.

Council passed final reading June 2 to change the allowed amount from up to 20 percent, to up to 50 percent. The 50 percent threshold matches the county ordinance with a state one. Some members objected.

Councilman Bruce Henderson called hospitality tax spending so far a “total redistribution of our rural money.” The tax charges two cents on food and drink in unincorporated areas. Yet Henderson said an “exceptional amount of revenue” goes to other parts of the county, including the Rock Hill/York County Convention & Visitors Bureau for operations.

“I just don’t think the right thing to do is to keep pounding on the rural folks to have the big city stuff happen only in your city, or mostly in your city,” Henderson said.

Councilman Joe Cox favored reducing the allowed spending amount for operations, or getting rid of the hospitality tax if the money can’t be allocated fairly.

“We’ve already exceeded our legal amount,” Cox said of past spending. “We’re at 28 percent for the CVB and we’re moving it to 50.”

Council still gets final say on spending, but Cox said the latest move doesn’t mean Council won’t up spending.

“This ordinance does not put any restraints on that,” he said.

Councilman Curwood Chappell said a past Council approved 20 percent, and a 30 percent increase is significant, regardless of the state’s number.

“That’s a mighty big jump,” he said.

Councilman William “Bump” Roddey voted in favor of the new percentage, saying all final decisions still come from Council.

“We’re not writing them a blank check to spend the money,” he said. “That comes back to us.”

Council also approved the first nine members for a new, 11-member committee that will take funding requests and make recommendations to Council. The group includes former Council members David Bowman and Tom Smith. It will consider tourism-generating projects from park or recreation facility construction to festival promotion and operations.

Henderson said the move toward the new committee is an effort to better allocate funds for the areas that collect it. He believes the amount spent on operations will be a revisited issue.

“We pushed for there to be more equality and more fairness to go toward the rural area of the county, period,” Henderson said.