Monday, October 23, 2017

County museums see tourism funds capped; marketing unscathed

county commissioners room


As Collier Commissioners try to find more money for beaches, the question has been what loses out.

Commissioners said on Tuesday that museum funding will be capped at $2 million as they work out how to reallocate the county’s bed taxes.

Collier’s four percent tax is set to go to five percent, in part to pay for an amateur sports complex. But focus on increasing funding for beach renourishment and maintenance has put tourism marketing funds and money for the county’s five museums under the knife.

A prior plan, proposed by Chair Penny Taylor, had considered phasing museums out of the tourism fund entirely over five years, but alternate plans to try and keep the museums in the fold have come together.

“I would like to make a proposition that we not float museums based on a percentage of the tax collected but we go back to 2013-14 range and cap the museum revenue at that amount,” Commissioner Bill McDaniel said. “That would provide for greater flexibility for us in managing these funds.”

The number was eventually shifted upward at the behest of Commission Burt Saunders to $2 million. Currently, the museum funds get a percentage of the bed taxes.

“It would certainly be less of a shock to the system,” McDaniel said. The museums receive about $2.5 million.

Commissioners had also considered cutting marketing funding as well, removing about $1 million from the tourism marketing budget. But Tuesday they chose to move forward without cuts.

“We’re spending a lot of money on advertising, and there should be some analysis on whether we’re getting our money’s worth out of that program,” Saunders said. “This isn’t the time to answer that question.”

About $2.5 million more will go to the beaches as part of the reshuffling of funds. $1.5 million of it will come as part of the tax increase, the rest is where the challenge is.

“All of these figures are based on bottom-line. That doesn’t mean that tourism won’t go up,” Commissioner Donna Fiala said. The allocations for both the beach funding and the marketing fund are based on percentages currently.

The proposed ordinance could also allow additional flexibility, by letting the county set defined amounts across the board on an annual basis, rather than percentages.

The final decision will come July 11.

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