Groups plugging tourism seek share of Mansfield bed taxes

08/25/2014 10:35 PM

08/26/2014 12:26 PM

Organizers of festivals, athletic tournaments and other events that draw tourists to Mansfield queued up before the City Council on Monday to ask for a share of the city’s hotel-motel tax revenues.

Officials project that the tax will bring in $509,000 for the 2014-15 fiscal year, the same as this year’s receipts. The state requires the so-called bed tax revenue to be used mostly to boost tourism in the community but it also can be allocated to the arts and to historic preservation efforts.

The City Council recently has been favoring events that specifically put tourists in Mansfield hotels and have implemented accountability measures to make sure organizations make that a top priority.

“I see a lot of improvement,” said Councilman Darryl Haynes. But he wants the groups to consider the subsidies as seed money. “We’re trying to get them to stand on their own so that we can fund other projects.”

That didn’t appear to be a priority among those seeking funds. Requests totaled $702,800, almost $200,000 more than the funds budgeted for next year.

The council has planned a second hearing on the hotel-motel tax revenue allocations for Sept. 2. It then will have to cut many of the individual requests to close the gap, said Finance Director Peter Phillis.

Last year, for the 2013-14 budget, the council reduced bed-tax funding by more than enough to break even, putting about $80,000 aside for possible other uses that also would meet the state requirements

“We have established a reserve fund in case there may be some additional opportunities during the year,” Phillis said.

The largest fund request — $293,229 — came from the tourism department that promotes the city and recruits athletic and convention events. Last year, the department requested $248,707 and received almost $204,000.

The city’s communications and marketing department and parks department are seeking $98,500 for a series of events next year celebrating the city’s 125th anniversary. The keynote event would be a collaboration of Mansfield 125 and Wurst Fest in September 2015, just after the city’s birthday on Aug. 23.

Also at a public hearing during the meeting, administrators presented a $44.2 million operating budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year, representing a 5 percent increase over the current budget but not requiring a tax rate increase.

No one spoke at the hearing on the budget and tax rate, which is proposed to remain at 71 cents per $100 of assessed value. A second public hearing is set for Sept. 2 at City Hall, and the council is set to cast its three required votes to finalize the budget and tax rate Sept. 8, 9 and10.

The budget includes $1.7 million for capital expenses, mostly for public safety vehicles and equipment and includes expansion of the library parking lot. A 3 percent merit raise for staff also is part of the budget.

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