It’s checkout time. At the front desk or, ever more likely, in an online statement well ahead of the trip, a bill arrives. Ever wonder where all that tax money goes?
Some of it is history. Some, marked for strawberries.
A relatively new and growing income source in Fort Mill is its accommodations tax. It’s a charge on overnight stays. Plenty of communities have them. The state rules on how Fort Mill can spend its revenue go back to 1990, with amendments and rewrites in 2010 and 2014.
Several new hotels opened the past couple of years in Fort Mill. Others, in town or nearby, are in various stages of discussion. Each new opening in town adds to the 3 percent local and 2 percent state charge. Accommodations tax money has to be spent on tourism-generating projects, as does the similar 2 percent hospitality tax on prepared food and drink.
Fort Mill had an application period mid-July to Aug. 1 for both. An accommodations tax advisory committee met Aug. 10 to recommend which projects get what funding, with final decision coming from Fort Mill Town Council. Council got its look at the recommendations Monday.
Here’s how the money breaks down:
▪ In the past year, town businesses offering overnight stays collected $80,837.28 in accommodations tax.
▪ By law, the first $25,000 collected and 5 percent of the balance go straight to the town general fund.
▪ Another 30 percent of the balance goes to an agency with an ongoing, tourism promoting program. The Rock Hill/York County Convention & Visitors Bureau gets $16,751.18 for the past year.
▪ The remaining 65 percent is distributed for tourism groups or projects decided by Council. This year, the advisory group recommends that $36,317.75 for one group and one event.
The Fort Mill History Museum gets $24,250 for advertising, event promotion and facility upgrades. It’s only 60 percent of what the museum requested, but still more than twice as much as the only other recipient. The museum had about 4,000 visitors last year and expects about 5,000 in the coming year. Leaders there estimate 25-30 percent of overall attendance comes from outside Fort Mill.
The South Carolina Strawberry Festival gets $12,067.75 for advertising and promotion. It’s the full amount requested by festival organizers. Estimates had 60,000 people attending the 2016 festival, but only about 15,000 this year due to rain throughout the event.
Fort Mill Community Playhouse and the Fort Mill School District also applied for funds, but none were recommended.