Lenoir City cash will keep Loudon County Visitors Bureau open
Hugh G. Willett, knoxnews.com
LENOIR CITY - A last-minute cash infusion provided by Lenoir City will assure that the Loudon County Visitors Bureau stays open another year.
Lenoir City Council voted unanimously to provide an additional $24,000 in funding to the bureau, which had threatened to close its doors following funding cuts made by the Loudon County commission.
Lenoir City Mayor Matt Brookshire provided the council with a proposal to allocate money from several different funds, including economic development and hotel/motel tax revenue.
Brookshire said he thought it was money well spent, given the return the city typically gets from the hotel/motel tax as well as sales tax from tourist spending. The hotel/motel tax, one of the highest in the state, generated about $290,000 for the city last year.
"If you look at the numbers, I think it's worth it," Brookshire said.
Councilman Tony Aikens made the motion to allocate the additional money.
"It's much needed," he said. "It would be foolish not to keep it going."
The $24,000 provided this week is in addition to the $25,000 the city already had budgeted for the bureau for next year.
Councilman Eddie Simpson pointed out that Loudon County and Lenoir City generally split expenses on a 70/30 basis, but that in this case the city was paying more than its 30 percent share.
"The county should step up to the plate," Simpson said.
The visitors bureau had requested an additional $32,000 after county commission decided to lower its contribution from 35 cents out of every dollar generated by the hotel/motel tax to 29 cents of every dollar.
The county is providing about $97,000 to the bureau for next year. Some on the commission argued that Lenoir City receives greater benefits from tourism than the county.
Doug Davis, chairman of the Visitors Bureau, said the shortfall could have forced the bureau to shut its doors and endangered several revenue-generating events planned for next year. Davis said after the meeting that the extra money provided by Lenoir City, along with cutbacks at the bureau, would be sufficient to keep the doors open.
Lenoir City Council members designate $24,000 to fund Visitors Bureau
Loudon County Visitors Bureau Monday got help from Lenoir City Council so the bureau could keep its doors open. Several members of the bureau's board and staff were present for the meeting to show their support.
• Take $5,000 from its VIP fund.
• Tap into economic development funds for $2,500, still allowing for the other $20,000 to be used in that fund.
• Take another $16,500 from the city's hotel/motel tax revenues.
"I think it's much needed for the visitors bureau to stay open," Council member Tony Aikens said. "As I said earlier at the workshop, I think we would be foolish not to try to keep it going. It's beneficial to Lenoir City and to the county. "I certainly commend Mr. Hurst and yourself (Brookshire) for trying to find some funds to keep it open," he added. Aikens then made the motion, seconded by Council member Douglas "Buddy" Hines, to make the allocation.
While the center has asked for funding, as well, from Loudon County Commission, it has not yet received an answer. "I would like to make a comment and remind the county commission that everything we do is usually a 70-30 split," Council member Eddie Simpson said. "Everything we participate in, they contribute 70 percent and we contribute 30 percent, and this takes us out of kilter by a substantial amount of money. "We are still part of the county, even though sometimes they try to push us off and say 'You're your own entity,' and I agree we are. I think the funds we collect we also collect that same amount for the county. And, I think the county should realize that, step up to the plate and say, 'You're right.' We do pay county taxes although we do pay city taxes as well. "I think it's very fair for the county to pay their portion. They offer no services to the city - we do all the services to the city - therefore, I think they need to stay a major player in all the projects we participate together in," Simpson said.