Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Meeting Discuss distribution Hotel Tax Money

We didn't attend the meeting. If the board of commissioners adopts the plan which distributes grant monies to for-profits, how will that be fair to those who don't obtain some of the grant monies? The plan that includes a county-based tourism promotion agency, handled under the authority of the commissioners, also seems at odds with the idea commissioners should be at least one-step removed from such programs that might become politically-driven rather than need-driven.

Our position remains unchanged from years of observation. Any time government officials become involved in these gimmicks to distribute tax monies, favoritism follows. It's inevitable. Somebody gets the grant money and somebody else doesn't as there is only so much to go around.

That's not to say no grant monies should ever be distributed, but the elected officials should be as far away from that process as they could get, and an argument could be made for exclusion of for-profits because then somebody is left out. This pits one for-profit against another with one receiving "government subsidy" while the other doesn't.

Then the public has to be watchdogging for the next ten years who gets the grants and who doesn't and wonder whether any favoritism is shown.

With an organization such as the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau handling the distribution of grants to the area, with input from a county representative appointed to the board, there is less interaction by elected officials directly in such decisions.

The public can still have an ability for oversight since the board of commissioners would have such in their annual reauthorization of the Bureau's status.

Net the Truth Online

Net the Truth Online

Fayette board mulls hotel-tax split
By The Tribune-Review
Friday, June 20, 2008

Under Zapotosky's and Vicites' proposal, 50 percent of the estimated $750,000 annual proceeds would go to Laurel Highlands for regional tourism marketing; 25 percent for a tourism grant program for nonprofit Fayette-based entities; and 25 percent to Penn State Fayette for development of a four-year Hotel, Restaurant and Institutional Management Program.

Under Zimmerlink's proposed, Laurel Highlands would receive 20 percent, with a $150,000 cap. A grant program would receive 50 percent, with both nonprofit and for-profit businesses eligible for grants. No money would be given to Penn State's Eberly campus. Ten percent would be designated for tourism projects at county-owned sites and 20 percent would be placed in escrow to develop a county visitors center. Zimmerlink proposes that a memorandum of understanding with the bureau be renewed each year, providing an opportunity to track and review revenues.

Zapotosky said his reason for opposing for-profit businesses being eligible for funding is the potential for public funding being lost in the event that a business goes bankrupt after receiving funding...

Opposition voiced to excluding for-profits from hotel tax grants
By Amy Zalar, Herald-Standard

The Fayette County commissioners Thursday heard opposition to a proposal that excludes for-profit organizations in a grant program funded by proceeds of the hotel occupancy tax...

...During the nearly three-hour meeting to discuss the proposed memorandum of understanding that must be approved before the July 1 implementation of the 3 percent tax, several individuals also spoke out about the need for a visitor's center in the county.

A proposal backed by Commissioners Vincent Zapotosky and Vincent A. Vicites calls for allocating 50 percent of the tax for the Laurel Highlands Visitors Bureau to be used for marketing and promotion; 25 percent for a tourism grant program for only nonprofit tourism organizations in Fayette County; and 25 percent for Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus, to develop and launch a four-year degreed hotel, restaurant and institutional management program.

Previous estimates are that proceeds of the tax are expected to generate $750,000 annually.

The lower of 2 percent or $40,000 is allocated to the county treasurer's office to collect the tax.

Commissioner Angela M. Zimmerlink, who voted against implementing the tax, also presented a proposal.

Zimmerlink's proposal includes allocating 20 percent to LHVB but no more than $150,000 and continuing with LHVB as Fayette County's tourism promotion agency through July 1, 2009; designating 50 percent for a grant program administered by LHVB for both non-profit and for-profit tourism entities, allowing both for marketing, advertising and capital improvements; designating 10 percent for county tourism projects and keeping 20 percent escrowed for a Fayette County Tourism Visitors Center...

Allocation of hotel tax revenue to be discussed in Uniontown
By The Tribune-Review
Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Fayette County commissioners will hold a public hearing 6 p.m. June 19 at the Public Service Building, 22 E. Main St., Uniontown.
Commissioners are seeking public comment on the proposed allocation of revenues from a hotel tax that will be implemented on July 1.

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