BW council approves revised H- & A-Tax application

BLYTHEWOOD – Groups seeking tourism grants from Blythewood will have their applications initially reviewed by council, according to recently enacted application changes.

Town Council recently voted to accept revisions to the current accommodations and hospitality tax application. The vote was unanimous.

Changes will take effect in 2023-2024.

Council members implemented several revisions, though shifting the follow-up review process from council members to town administration was the most substantial change.

Presently, the council approves 80 percent of an organization’s request up front. Council withholds the remaining 20 percent until after the event, but groups must adhere to the application and meet other stipulations to receive the final 20 percent, which the council must vote to distribute.

With the changes, the 80 percent disbursement remains the same, but funds aren’t awarded until no more than 90 days prior to the event.

Recipients must apply for the remaining 20 percent no more than 60 days after the event.

That 20 percent will now be reviewed and dispersed by the town administrator, Carroll Williamson

The Nov. 21 vote comes following a heated exchange in August over the allocation of hospitality tax funds for the Doko Rib Fest Cook-off. Tempers flared over whether the event qualified for the final 20 percent ($3,200) of its original funding request.

Councilman Donald Brock said the proposed application changes should simplify future requests.

“The logic behind this is to eliminate the fiasco we had behind the 20 percent,” Brock said.

Failing to apply within 60 days results in a forfeiture of the 20 percent, according to the application.

Councilman Sloan Griffin said he supported moving to an administrative approval process. He expressed a small concern that the new process might place undue burdens on the administrator.

“I don’t have any issue with what I see here,” Griffin said. “I’m just trying to figure out how to word how it works with the town administrator. I like the process, I’m just curious we’re not putting too much work on you.”

Town Administrator Carroll Williamson said the changes shouldn’t present any challenges aside from outside groups contesting accommodation-tax and hospitality tax decisions.

“This application is certainly much simpler,” Williamson said. “The thing that would be challenging is if there is any deviation. Then the application would have to come back to town council for another approval.”

Brock said applicants could appeal any disagreements to the council.

“Under the new application form, when the council approves an event for funding, it pushes the 20 percent approval, to the administrator,” he said. “The 20 percent money doesn’t come before council unless there’s an appeal.”

The revised application also removes religious groups from eligibility, and removes references to groups with 501(c)(3) status, opting for the more broad “non-profit” term.

If an event is canceled, funds must be returned as soon as practical. However, council members said they would work with groups whose events are canceled through no fault of their own.

With the revised application approved, the town’s accommodation and hospitality tax subcommittee will develop proposed policy changes, which will come before council as soon as the December meeting, according to Brock and McKenrick.

“We’ve gotten a great start on it. Our heads are in the game and we want to get it right,” McKenrick said.

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