BTC eyes adjusting H-Tax/A-Tax funding

BLYTHEWOOD – Town Council met in a special called meeting Tuesday night to consider a record number of requests from 24 organizations for a total of $275,000 for event funding.

The source for the funding is the Town’s hospitality tax (H-tax) and accommodations tax (A-Tax) revenue which amounts to a little over $500,000 annually. The purpose of the funding is to support events that bring tourists into the town to shop, eat and otherwise spend money with the town’s merchants. Some of the events do that and some, not so much.

Since the Town began funding local events from its growing pot of H-tax and A-tax revenue about 20 years ago, requests for funding have also grown from a few hundred dollars annually in the early 2000’s to close to $300,000 annually this year.

Mayor Bryan Franklin told The Voice recently that after 30 percent of the state accommodation tax (SAT) revenue part of the $500,000+ pot of revenue goes to a 501C(3) for tourism promotion and $122,487 goes to pay the Doko Manor’s mortgage, and $275,000 goes to fund events, little is left for other allowed uses of the fund that promote tourism, such as landscaping the town’s entrances, topping the I-77 bridge with a decorative ironwork safety fence or capital projects like the purchase of land to build a sports complex.

In recent meetings, Franklin and council members have been looking at ways to trim some of the funding doled out for events whose benefit to tourism for the town has been minimal or for events that could secure funding from sources other than the Town of Blythewood.

To that end, Council has recently tightened rules and redesigned application forms for those requesting H-tax and A-tax event funds. Changes include: requiring receipts to prove how the funding awards were spent and requiring all funding requests to be submitted in February of each year so they can be properly budgeted. The most severe of the changes is the suggestion that council will actually cut back on the funding.

Put to the first test Monday night to substantially trim down some of its event funding, council members found it difficult to say, ‘No.’

Instead of voting to cut back on any of the 22 events for 2022, they ended up funding two additional new event requests – $2,900 for Blythewood High School’s Soda City Classic Softball Tournament that is not held in the town (which has traditionally been a requirement for funding) and $20,000 for a for-profit band affiliated with Universal CMG World Entertainment that says it doesn’t plan to profit from the gig it’s requesting funding for. The town, in the past, has only funded not-for-profit events, except for the rodeo.

Councilman Eddie Baughman was the lone vote against funding the band, pointing out that the application for funding only listed expenses of $20,000, even though it was asking for $25,000 in funding and that the form was otherwise incomplete.

Franklin pointed out that the Town generally has not funded such a great amount for a new event that has not first proven to bring in large crowds. The vote was 4-1 in favor of funding.

At least six of the 24 requests were for Richland School District Two sports teams for a total of $51,480 requested from the Town. The school district is not listed as a financial contributor to any of the events. More school sports teams come to the Town each year for the funds.

Some of those requesting funds are for-profits and others are not held in the town, limiting the possibility of tourist money being spent in the town. In the past, the town only funded in-town events.

At least three of the requests (two for the Blythewood Rodeo at $25,000 each and one for a band at $20,000) are for-profit businesses for $70,000.

  • The Women’s SC Golf Association, $25,000.
  • Range Fore Hope Golf Tournament, $10,000.
  • Blythewood Christmas Parade, $7,500.
  • Blythewood Artist’s Guild, $5,500.
  • Town of Blythewood Fireworks, $25,000.
  • Five for the Blythewood Historical Society & Museum, $41,200
  • Two for the Blythewood Chamber of Commerce, $34,000.

The July 3 Fireworks show, with $25,000 funding has always been one of the town’s largest tourist draws with as many as 5,000 attending the July 3 event. The Big Grab, which receives only $5,000 in funding has year after year had, perhaps, the greatest financial impact on the town, bringing thousands of people to downtown Blythewood who shop, eat and sleep in town over a two day period.

While the funding requests were on the agenda to be voted on, council decided to just review all but the two requests they voted to fund, and vote on whether to fund the others at a later time.

“If we are going to be able to fund some nice things for the town,” Franklin told The Voice, “we are going to have to make some changes in how we award the H-tax and A-tax money. It’s a hard decision.”

The next town council meeting is set for Monday, March 22 at 7 p.m. at Doko Manor.

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