Lots of ‘jars’

Entities working together now to try and bring tourists to town

Many years ago a Milano superintendent, drumming up support for an ultimately successful bond election, brought several jars full of coins to a town hall meeting.

His visual aid—and it was an excellent one— was to show how revenue is raised and how it can legally be spent, that funds coming in to one jar can only come out of that jar and must be used for specific “jar-related” expenses.

Rockdale’s city, Municipal Development District (MDD), Tourism Committee and Chamber of Commerce are currently struggling with a massive task, trying to attract tourism here.

How hard is that task? Well, here’s what we want. Couple in Round Rock or Waco or College Station wakes up some Saturday morning and their first thought is: Hey let’s see what’s going on in Rockdale tonight!

The main “jar” that contains money to entice our hypothetical couple to attend a show at the Kay Theatre, dance at the Fair Park pavilion and then snooze on a local pillow is called the hotel-motel tax (HOT). It can only be used for tourism related activities.

The MDD collects a sales tax that only goes straight to the development district for its use, primarily in attracting businesses to town but also okay for some other uses. It’s not city tax money; that’s separate.

The City of Rockdale collects both ad valorem and sales taxes for its general fund budget. These “jars” are where city services are funded.

Rockdale also has an enterprise fund, coming from water and wastewater fees. Those revenues can only be used for the water and wastewater system, not for anything else including the general fund, certainly not for tourism.

So it’s not like Smaug the dragon from The Hobbit, snoozing on top of a mountain of moolah. Most jars don’t interact.

Planners are now trying to present a unified proposal to allot HOT “jar money” to prod those tourists here. As you can see, it’s complicated.

It’s a little “jarring,” but we’re delighted they’re now working together.—M.B.

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2014-02-20 digital edition

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