New Rules for A-Tax Funds

BLYTHEWOOD – After some intense questioning by members of the Town’s Accommodation Tax (A-Tax) Committee about how some organizations have spent money awarded to them from the A-Tax fund in past years, Committee members tightened up the rules last week for organizations applying for those funds in the future. The Committee voted unanimously June 3 to require all applicants to start providing receipts for all expenses for events receiving A-Tax funding.

According to the motion, if applicants fail to attach those receipts to a financial report 90 days following the close of the funded event, 20 percent of their approved funds will be withheld and they will not be considered for future funding.

In the past, the Committee has required recipients of A-Tax awards to report only generally on the event for which the money was awarded. The reports contained information such as copies of advertising, how the Town of Blythewood was recognized, a list of sponsors and a general summary of the event results. While awards are limited specifically to those events that draw tourists, a review by The Voice of final reports from last year’s events revealed some subjective accounts of the number of tourists in attendance but rarely any corroboration for those numbers.

“We need to see (a financial reporting) when these applicants come back,” Committee Member Carol Coston said, “because only then can we evaluate whether there is value in continuing to fund them.”

Moving on from questions about past reporting, the Committee awarded the full amounts requested by all of this year’s applicants.

The Committee approved $15,000 for the Doko Rodeo after some clarification by applicant Buck Coggins as to whether the number of estimated ticket sales ($20,000) matched the 5,000 – 6,000 people he estimated would be attending the rodeo. Ticket prices for adults are $15 at the door and $12 in advance; tickets for children ages 6-12 are $5, and children under 6 are admitted free.

Coggins said at least 1,000 of the tickets issued would be complimentary, another 1,000 attendees will be children and about 500 of the attendees are the rodeo workers.

While the Committee approved $10,000 requested by the Tournament of Bands, Committee member Ken Shettles questioned how the event managed to have a profit of only $5,000 on concessions over a 12-hour period with a $12,000 expenditure.

“You are making less than a 5 percent profit,” said Committee Chairman Davis Garren . “You should be making at least 30 percent with this expenditure.”

Blythewood High School band director Jim Bonner, representing the Tournament, said that was an area he was trying to improve on.

The Committee approved $400 for music at the Christmas Tree Lighting and $2,000 for the Big Grab event in September. The Holiday Market, under the umbrella of Bravo Blythewood, asked for $4,000 this year, $2,000 more than last year to be spent for advertising.

The largest payout was to the Diamond Invitational baseball tournament in the amount of $20,000 – $10,000 more than requested last year. Committee members questioned the $10,000 increase while the Tournament’s expenses were increasing only $4,000. Dennis Ballentine, representing the group, explained that the Tournament was adding two more teams for a total of 12 teams next year.

The Committee funded the upcoming July 3 Independence Day celebration in Doko Park with $7,500 to cover the cost of tents, sheriff’s deputies, entertainment, advertising, an event planner and decorations. The fireworks were already paid for since the New Year’s Eve fireworks event in the park was cancelled (due to inclement weather in January) and moved, instead, to the July 3 date. Ken Shettles, owner of Chuggers and co-sponsor of the event with the Town, said he expects an attendance of about 2,000.

In other business, Steve Hasterok, Director of Events at The Manor, said the Town is in the preliminary planning stages for a barbecue competition for local vendors in late October. He said the event would include certified S.C. barbecue judges and that more information would be forthcoming.

The seven members of the A-Tax Committee are required by state law to include two people from the hotel industry, one from a cultural organization and the remainder a mix of hospitality businesses such as restaurants.