A transit system geared towards vacationers, paying Austin musicians to advertise native tourism, and a wide range of programming and promotional efforts for historic websites are amongst a brand new batch of really helpful makes use of for the town’s Lodge Occupancy Tax {dollars}.

This week the Tourism Fee unanimously authorised a report from its Parks and Atmosphere Working Group that checked out how the town might spend lodge tax cash in ways in which profit the native parks system. The 16 suggestions, which all seem to fall inside the state legal guidelines masking use of the tax, embody promotional guides for space parks and associated points of interest, programming and different content material that may very well be utilized in media placements, and customer facilities or informational kiosks for a wide range of points of interest and websites within the parks system.

Whereas the lodge tax has lengthy been a horny pool of cash for native makes use of, it’s equally problematic as a result of the state limits its use to 4 areas – conference heart bills, cultural arts funding, historic preservation, and tourism and advertising promotion – with spending caps on a few of these classes. The working group was created final February to search for methods to handle some parks wants in order that the funds for the Parks and Recreation Division and parks-related nonprofits may very well be directed towards different bills.

Though lodge tax receipts have dropped drastically for the reason that onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, they’re anticipated to rebound inside the subsequent 5 years to earlier ranges by which greater than $100 million was collected yearly.

After voting to undertake the report, the fee additionally voted unanimously to ask Metropolis Council and staffers to contemplate the suggestions throughout annual funds negotiations, particularly when deciding how greatest to allocate lodge tax {dollars} in ways in which adjust to state legislation.

There was some debate amongst working group members about how broadly to interpret the state’s language permitting for the creation of a transportation system to maneuver vacationers to and from lodges “in and close to the municipality.”

The authorised suggestion language reads: “Proposed tasks on this class embody a vacationer transportation system (e.g., a shuttle, bus route, ferry, gondola, or different transportation system that doesn’t primarily serve most of the people) for transporting vacationers between lodges, business areas and vacationer points of interest (e.g., Zilker Park or Barton Springs). Whereas most of the people might use such a vacationer transportation system, HOT tax funding could be restricted to the extent that vacationers use the vacationer transportation system.”

Commissioner Michael Cannatti, who led the working group, stated the town hasn’t capitalized on the allowances provided within the state legislation.

“A few of these classes the town doesn’t take full benefit of, one in all which is a customer data heart, which underneath state legislation will be put in place in parks to assist orient folks and supply data to vacationers,” he stated. “This was a means of explaining to Council, listed here are methods and areas which might be appropriate for lodge tax funds to be deployed in compliance with state legislation.”

In contemplating the pair of motions associated to the suggestions, Chair Catlin Whitington stated he hoped the language directed at Council and staffers would forestall the report from being ignored throughout funds work classes in coming years.

Commissioner Ed Bailey referred to as the suggestions a few of the greatest work produced for the reason that current creation of the Tourism Fee. Previous to voting for each motions, he stated he didn’t need the fee to be requested to rank or prioritize the doable tasks as a follow-up request from Metropolis Council.

“I need to ensure that we don’t someway find yourself in a course of downstream the place we’re making an attempt to value-engineer all of those to see which of them are the very best precedence,” he stated. “As we’re transferring ahead to undertake this complete platform as part of using HOT funds … this doesn’t bounce again to this committee to find out wayfaring indicators versus a transportation system and which is extra deserving of cash.”

Picture made out there via a Creative Commons license.

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