THE HUNTER REPORT
Council ok's $24,000 Bailout
By: Pat Hunter
This fiscal year, Loudon County Commission appropriated $102,200 and Lenoir City voted to give $25,000 to the Visitor's Bureau. Last year, Commission appropriated $135,000 while Lenoir City Council did not provide direct funding. The Visitor's Bureau is located on Highway 321 in the corporate city limits of Lenoir City. Last year when the Visitor's Bureau requested funding from Lenoir City, they hit a brick wall, thanks in part to Councilman Eddie Simpson. Click Lenoir City Official's Vent at Chamber And Tourist Bureau's Funding Request!
Click Nations highest hotel tax in LC
At Monday's, Nov. 9th Lenoir City Council meeting, Mayor Matt Brookshire spoke about the Visitor's Bureau funding request. Several weeks ago, representatives from the Visitor's Bureau informed Lenoir City Council and Loudon County Commissioners that $32,000 additional funds were needed to prevent the Visitor's Bureau from closing their doors.
Michael Bobo, chamber president and Mary Bryant, Visitor's Bureau director were both present along with supporters. The Visitor's Bureau is affiliated with the Chamber of Commerce.
Mayor Matt Brookshire made it perfectly clear that $24,000 funding was "for this fiscal year only." video clip
Brookshire spoke about how he and City Administrator Dale Hurst worked on the funding issue without interrupting the city budget or any city services and how he proposed three ways to achieve giving $24,000:
Accept no more VIP applications for this fiscal year. That program has already approved and paid for two (2) projects. Take $5,000 from that fund, it will still leave money in that fund.
Tap into RIDA (Regional Industrial Development Association) Funds of $2,500.
Take out $16,500 from hotel-motel tax reveues. Projections are above budget.
Councilman Tony Aikens thought that the funds were greatly needed for the doors of the Visitor's Bureau to stay open. It would be foolish not to keep the doors open, Aikens added, its very beneficial to Lenoir City and County.
Councilman Aikens made a motion to approve, which was seconded by Councilman Buddy Hines.
Will this $24,000 be enough to keep the doors open since you were asking for $34,000, Councilman Mike Henline asked. Yes, replied someone in the audience.
We did do some more budget cutting, which allows us to do this, Visitor Bureau President Doug Davis said.
Were you successful in getting anything from the county asked Councilman Eddie Simpson.
Representatives from the Visitor's Bureau spoke at a commission workshop but Doug Davis said that they (commission) made no commitment.
"I would like to make a comment and remind the county, the county commission that everything we do is usually a 70-30 split” said Councilman Eddie Simpson. Almost 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. And I think the funds that we collect, we also collect that same amount for the county. And, I think the county should realize that and "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.
"Well said Mr. Simpson, Well said" echoed Mayor Matt Brookshire.
Considering that Lenoir City hasn't provided direct funding to the Visitor's Bureau before now, it may take a long time to play catch up, Councilman Simpson! Councilman Simpson is also a business man and his retail outlet probably benefits greatly from tourist trade.