York County’s hospitality tax committee has been meeting since August, hearing from government agencies, community organizations and nonprofits about how best to spend the tax money dedicated to boosting tourism. But on Thursday, committee members may have gotten the best idea yet of how they will be expected to spend it.
That’s when members of the volunteer committee filled the conference room at the county’s Heckle Boulevard office complex for a rare joint meeting with representatives of the York County Council and the Rock Hill/York County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
This was the first chance for members of all three entities to meet and bounce ideas off each other.
Thursday’s meeting came after sometimes dicey relations between the county, the hospitality tax committee and the visitors bureau. The York County Council is in the process of amending the ordinance governing the committee to replace visitors bureau finance director Mikki Rentschler as the committee’s county liaison with county treasurer Beth Latham.
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“Much has been made of the county removing the CVB liaison,” Michael Johnson, chair of the council finance committee, said to the committee at one point. “It wasn’t because we hate the CVB. They have a vital role to play, and I believe in what they’re doing.”
Instead, the county administration felt the committee would be better served with a county employee handling some of the body’s organizational and informational needs, rather than a member of an agency that takes its funding from the hospitality tax.
The hospitality tax committee “should not be responsible for funding the CVB,” Johnson said later. “That should come 100 percent from the county.”
The committee should formulate its list of suggestions separately from the visitor’s bureau’s needs, and without regard to the $1.7 million figure the tax is projected to collect, Johnson said.
“If the list you draw up is only $300,000, great. If the list is $2.4 million, that’s fine too,” Johnson said. “The council will decide how the money’s actually spent, so the H-Tax committee shouldn’t worry about that.”
Committee Chairman Watts Huckabee also made some suggestions for the council members, including streamlining the application process for hospitality tax projects and creating a “resource list” of county agencies or other groups that could help applicants craft a better proposal.
“We don’t want somebody to have a good plan, and it’s not submitted right, and we can’t help them, and then they go to the newspaper and say, ‘They didn’t let me do my project,’” Huckabee said.
Some of the suggestions may come up at future council meetings as the county prepares to set its annual budget this spring.
The hospitality tax committee will continue to meet monthly.