The question though is just how much can they spare and is it even possible considering how their hotel occupancy funds are set up?
Commissioner Carlos Salazar proposed that the county give the Mile organizers $5,000 to help bring the event to Beeville.
“I know they put heads in beds... and bring a lot of additional tax revenue to the county,” he said. “I know that we have hotel occupancy funds, and I know that some of those funds can be used for bringing in events like this to the community that put heads in beds.
“If we could, it would show our appreciation and welcome them to Bee County and what they bring into this community through their event.”
Others agreed but postponed a final decision, wanting to move cautiously by seeking a legal opinion on distribution of the money and wording in agreements to ensure they are doing everything legally.
Linda Bridge, tax assessor-collector, reminded that there are stipulations in how the court can use the HOT funds.
“I think that is a wonderful idea; however, the way it is stated in the tax code, I would suggest you get a legal opinion as to whether it can be given to something that is not beneficial to the Expo Center,” she said.
The county began collecting HOT funds several months ago.
The county only receives two percent, and that money is earmarked for repairs and improvements to the Expo Center.
According to the bill, signed into law last year, the county not only can use the money for the Expo Center renovations, but, according to the bill’s analysis, to “advertise and conduct solicitations and promotional programs to attract tourists and convention delegates and registrants to the county.”
Bridge reminded, “Make sure whatever the contract says that it is in line with the tax code that covers that.”
For several years now, the city has been offering a portion of its HOT funds to the event.
However, the amount generated by the city through HOT funds is considerably greater than that of the county.
About a month ago, the city council voted to give the Texas Mile $29,500.
The city’s HOT fund money is to be spent strictly on promotion and not to be used to help pay the cost of a $50 million insurance policy for the event, required by the Bee Development Authority.
Texas Mile organizer Shannon Matus had asked for the money from the fund specifically to pay a portion of an approximately $105,000 insurance premium her organization would need to pay for the more expensive policy.
Matus had come to the county previously hoping to use its street sweeper to keep the runway clean of debris.
Due to its age and condition, there was some concern about the wear and tear the use would cause, which is what prompted Salazar to offer the financial contribution in place of the equipment.
Commissioner Dennis DeWitt voiced concern not over the donation but just that they have no criteria nor process yet for distributing this money.
“The concern I have is we don’t have a policy or a procedure.
“We should promote the Texas Mile. But how much?
“I might look at something like not more than 5 percent in the budget or $1,000, whichever is less.”
He raised the concern that at $5,000, they could easily run through the $29,000 they have in that fund right now if more requests come in to the county.
“Pretty soon, we are out of money, and we cannot do the repairs we want to do, and we cannot put money in the building fund,” he said.
What happens when Diez y Seis and Western Week ask for equivalent amounts, he poised.
Salazar said that, while he was grateful for those two events, they do not draw the out-of-town visitors like the Texas Mile.
“For us to say it is our money, and we aren’t going to give anything back to y’all, even though y’all are responsible for the funds we are getting in—to me it is the wrong message to send out to any organization, to be quite honest.
“The principle behind all of this is to improve the facilities out there. Heck yeah.
“I want to improve them but at the same time help out these organizations that are making it happen. Without them we wouldn’t have these $29,000.”
Jason Collins is the editor at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 121, or at editor@mySouTex.com.