In a unanimous vote, City Council members Tuesday night decided to decrease the hotel/motel tax revenue managed by the chamber to help pay for Jacksonville's proposed civic center project. The city decided to reduce the chamber's tax funds to 40 percent, with a maximum allocation of $70,000. Last fiscal year, the city approved the chamber managing 50 percent of the occupancy funds, with a maximum allocation of $80,000.
Chamber treasurer Randy Gorham told council members before the vote that the chamber board voted to present 50 percent again this year for the chamber budget.
“We feel like we've done a good job in promoting our town (and bringing people in)…,” he said before explaining the chamber's administrative expenses. “Our board feels like we're doing a really good job at carrying out fiduciary (responsibilities). We realize it's the city's money and appreciate (what's been) given to us. If you give less, we'll do our best with it.”
Chamber chairman Nathan Jones also thanked the council for serving the community before pointing out the chamber slogan, which is “Team Jacksonville Together Everyone Achieves More.”
“We have to work on a plan where everyone succeeds,” Jones said.
He also noted successes from the chamber, including the sale of 190 concrete tomatoes to display around town; a new piece of tourism literature showing where the tomatoes are; helping to beautify the town's entryways; and Taste of Jacksonville, which gives proceeds back to the city.
“There have been a lot of successes this year,” Jones told council members. “We appreciate what you're doing … If we have to accept less, the board will live with it. It's just when you reduce (that money), programs go away.”
Melvin has said the city won't increase property taxes to build the civic center, but will fund the project with building rentals and hotel/ motel tax.
“Hopefully we'll have a lot of people wanting to use it when it gets completed - (maybe) gun shows (or) a group will want to have a convention and rent the facility ...” he said Friday of the project. “It is the city's responsibility to spend those hotel/motel dollars to promote tourism.”
But Chamber President Peggy Renfro said via email Monday that Jacksonville will miss out on several marketing opportunities, including Internet marketing, vacation guides and attending tourism seminars and conferences, if the chamber loses hotel/motel tax revenue.
“With Jacksonville not included in these marketing opportunities, Jacksonville could miss a possible visitor as well as educational opportunities for the chamber staff,” she wrote.
Melvin has said the chamber might have to cut each program a little if it manages less of that money, but he doesn't expect it to have a significant effect.
“It may have some effect. They may have to leave a billboard up instead of renewing the billboard or leave the same side on the billboard,” he said. “There are several different factors involved in this. You don't make a $10,000 cut on one program. You (cut a little from several programs). I don't think there will be a tragic effect on any of the programs.”
Jacksonville Finance Director Freddy Thomas echoed Melvin Monday, saying, “If we give you 40 percent, we're going to cap it at $70,000. Then next year if we do $226,000 again (in total hotel/motel tax revenue), we'll have another $156,000 in our hotel/motel fund to help pay for the civic center. It's not a make or break deal. It's just the more money we accumulate in that fund; it will help cover the cost of the civic center.”
The project is estimated to cost $3 million.
Melvin has said a construction timeline hasn't been discussed, and the city won't know a construction start date until it knows what the final design cost is and how much dirt work will be required. Two different locations in the Nichols Green Park area are being considered for the civic center.