The newest of Rockdale’s committees/commissions/ special districts is the city’s Tourism Committee which will essentially now have the final say on how money collected from the hotel-motel tax will be spent.
They will, of course, “only” make recommendations to the city council but councils generally don’t create such bodies to ignore their decisions.
It’s a big job. Just how big was emphasized Thursday when the committee met to hear its first application for funds. Greeting them at City Hall was a 31-page handout “What Cities Need to Know to Administer Municipal Hotel Occupancy Taxes.”
You see, it’s not as simple as “collect the money, decide who needs it and give it to them.” Because it’s tax money there are definite restrictions on what it can, and can’t, be spent for. That’s because the funds collected are supposed to be primarily used for the advantage of the entities who charged and collected it, hotels and motels.
Which, of course, benefit from tourism. So anything which brings people to your area would be fair game for using the tax funds.
But there are different rules for different sized places and very specific categories regulating how funds can be spent.
It’s a committee of business people, not attorneys, and they’re going to need help understanding all those rules. They asked a lot of questions on Thursday.
One of them was along the lines of “what if you hold an event and you draw a majority of folks from, say, Taylor. They’re not going to spend the night in Rockdale; they’re just going to go home. Can we legally fund that event?”
That’s one great question.
All of the volunteers on the board showed an obvious willingness to help and a genuine interest to make things better. It’s just going to take them, and us, time to get things sorted out.
The best way the community can help is with a large dose of patience. It’s going to be a new era.—M.B.