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As 2012 draws to a close, Beaufort officials are in no rush to divvy up money from accommodations taxes to nonprofit organizations, which use the funds to promote events and the community.
The money is typically allocated in early fall, but the application and award process is undergoing an overhaul intended to instill greater financial responsibility and cooperative advertising efforts among recipients.
The accommodations tax, often referred to as a bed tax, is a levy on overnight lodging to fund programs promoting tourism and attract visitors. The amount given each year varies depending on how well hotels do. Last year, $140,000 was awarded.
Organizations apply to the city's Tourism Development Advisory Commission, which makes recommendations to City Council. Council votes on how much each group receives.
In October, committee chairman Jeff Evans was optimistic applications would be ready to send out by mid-November.
City Council discussed the application and new criteria Nov. 20. The committee is now reviewing recommendations from council members and city staff, Evans said.
Among the recommendations is using the money to reimburse groups after they produce records showing how the money was spent, Evans said. That could improve accountability, he said.
Typically, the same 12 to 14 organizations receive money annually, and a repeated concern of some council members is that groups may have become dependent upon the grants. Leaders of those groups have said they hope the changes help, not hinder, the promotion of Beaufort and its attractions.
"It has never been a guaranteed funding source," Councilman Mike Sutton said.
State law gives the city two years to award accommodations tax money without penalties, so Sutton said the city still has time to iron out the process and award 2012 money. The funds could be combined with the 2013 grants, but City Council has not voted on whether to do that, according to city manager Scott Dadson.
Dadson said a switch to reimbursements instead of grants would have little effect on the city's finances, but could impact the cash flow of organizations that use the money.
Sutton said City Council might decide accommodations tax awards early next year.