Tourism development authority receives new budget

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The New Hanover County Tourism Development Authority Board of Directors unanimously approved the proposed 2014-2015 fiscal year budget during a May 28 meeting.

The budget is slated for adoption during the June 25 meeting.

Kim Hufham, Wilmington and Beaches Convention and Visitors Bureau president and CEO, outlined the authority’s $4.014 million proposed budget for the 2014–2015 fiscal year, up 2.41 percent from the 2013–2014 budget.

Hufham said the budget assumes a 2.5 increase for the first 3 percent of the ROT, bringing expected revenue to $1.614 million.

Forty percent of the first 3 percent is used by the authority. The remaining 60 percent is set aside for beach renourishment.

A 1 percent bump in first 3 percent expenditures is budgeted, including a 1.5 percent increase in salaries and wages and several staff development opportunities. Marketing and promotions claims 73 percent of budgeted first 3 percent expenditures, while administrative costs claim 19 percent.

Hufham said the budget incorporates a shift in advertising focus from print to online.

“We get more bang for our buck. That’s where people are going,” Hufham said.

For second 3 percent revenues, Wrightsville Beach is expected to collect $967,418 compared to $685,041 for Carolina Beach and $304,282 for Kure Beach. Total expected revenue for the second 3 percent amounts to $1.956 million.

Half of the second 3 percent must be used to promote travel and tourism while the other half is for tourism-related expenditures.

Carolina Beach Mayor Dan Wilcox updated the board on the outcome of two meetings called to discuss potential funding sources to offset dwindling federal and state financial support for beach renourishment projects.

The meetings, held April 15 and April 30, were called following an unsuccessful request for allocation of additional countywide ROT funds for renourishment projects.

Ideas proposed at the meetings included a 1.5 percent room occupancy tax increase, 1 percent prepared food and beverage tax increase and a sales tax increase. Funds accrued through the tax increases would be earmarked solely for renourishment projects.

Wilcox said the discussions have not yielded a clear solution.

“No recommendations, no conclusions. I think generally speaking, the discussion at the last meeting was perhaps the best approach would not be to put the burden on any one source,” Wilcox said.

Wilcox said the intent behind the meetings was to present a recommendation to New Hanover County Commissioners. Discussions with the county manager’s office suggested any solution resulting in additional tax burden to locals would be not considered, leaving the ROT increase as the most viable option.

“If you look at the revenue sources we’re talking about… the ROT monies, that’s almost all visitor-generated. … Prepared food and beverage would be both visitor and local, maybe learning toward the visitor side. The sales tax, that would both visitor and local, maybe weighted toward the local side. Back to the property tax, that would be all on the citizens,” Wilcox said.

Wilcox said even if a solution does not emerge from the meetings, it was still a beneficial use of time.

“It never hurts to go through the exercise and try to be proactive rather than reactive. So I guess we’ll have to see where that goes,” Wilcox said.

email miriah@luminanews.com

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