Fort Mill Times

Group looking for ‘narrower focus’ for hospitality tax

York County and municipal leaders are meeting to figure out to fund a growing list of recreation projects.

“We do have a need, and we have a huge opportunity to meet that need,” said Watts Huckabee, chairman of the county hospitality tax advisory committee.

Last year, the three capital and 11 marketing requests for hospitality tax funding was more than the $6 million available in the fund. At least four more capital projects are under consideration, including Tega Cay’s request for $5.5 million for Catawba Park.

“We really need to look at these projects from a different perspective,” Huckabee said.

One option is bonding large projects, which York County Council could decide to do. Another is to have municipalities, school districts and other groups looking for a piece of the county money to put more of their own funding in the pot. Special recreation tax districts could be another.

Without new solutions, the answer will almost certainly be having to deny projects, even if it meets requirements and goals of the tax spending.

“We’re forcing ourselves, which is a good thing, to form a narrower focus,” Huckabee said.

York County Council invited municipalities, school districts and stakeholders that applied for tax funding to a workshop Thursday to talk about recreation goals and laws surrounding hospitality tax use.

The county hospitality tax is a 2 percent charge on food and drink in unincorporated areas like Lake Wylie. The money must be spent on tourism-generating activities. The county tax brings in about $2 million annually.

The first large capital allocation was $1 million last year for a water park addition to the aquatic center partnership between the Clover School District and Upper Palmetto YMCA in Lake Wylie.

The Fort Mill School District and Lake Wylie Athletic Association then each requested money for tournament and recreation facilities. Each received half of their final requests.

The Lake Wylie Athletic Association request amount was about one-third of what the group originally asked for, and came based on the group applying for and working on a special tax district for residents to vote on to help fund the facility.

Those types of arrangements could become more common. While advisory group members agreed Catawba Park and other projects would generate new hospitality tax revenue, they also see more ways to spend money than is available.

“H-tax is only going to be a small part of funding on these capital projects,” said Tom Smith, advisory group member.

John Marks: 803-831-8166