Di­vi­sion over ho­tel tax

For­mula would al­lo­cate up to half the mu­nic­i­pal ac­com­mo­da­tion tax to Aquatar­ium

The Recorder & Times (Brockville) - - FRONT PAGE - RON­ALD ZA­JAC

As much as half the pro­ceeds from Brockville’s ho­tel tax will go to the Aquatar­ium un­der a for­mula to be dis­cussed over the course of this month.

The other half would be split among a va­ri­ety of tourism-re­lated pri­or­i­ties, most of which would be de­cided by the city ’s tourism ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee.

City coun­cil’s eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and plan­ning com­mit­tee on Tues­day re­ceived a re­vised staff re­port, the lat­est at­tempt to come up with a palat­able for­mula for split­ting the in­come from the ho­tel tax, known more pre­cisely as the mu­nic­i­pal ac­com­mo­da­tion tax (MAT).

But the plan is al­ready not pleas­ing ev­ery­one.

A spe­cial com­mit­tee is ex­pected to dis­cuss the plan and come up with a fi­nal rec­om­men­da­tion next month, when the newly-elected city coun­cil starts its term.

Mem­bers of the plan­ning com­mit­tee heard from a suc­ces­sion of speak­ers urg­ing city hall to re­con­sider the for­mula and al­lo­cate more of the money to Tourism Brockville, al­low­ing it to boost its mar­ket­ing ef­forts. (Please see re­lated story below.)

Out­go­ing Mayor David Hen­der­son said some on city coun­cil clearly feel some por­tion of the MAT will have to go to the Aquatar­ium, while oth­ers favour­ing more tourism mar­ket­ing spend­ing don’t like that idea.

“It’s very clear that that’s the one sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence,” said Hen­der­son.

The re­al­ity, said Hen­der­son, is that the Aquatar­ium will need $300,000 to $400,000 a year in the form of a stand­ing com­mit­ment from the city. “That money will ei­ther come from the city bud­get, or it will come from the MAT, in com­bi­na­tion with the city bud­get,” said Hen­der­son.

Mayor-elect Jason Baker, who is cur­rently a coun­cil­lor, sug­gested a mid­dle po­si­tion.

He said there may be a “short­term need” for the city to look after the Aquatar­ium’s fi­nan­cial sur­vival be­fore tran­si­tion­ing to a model in which more money goes to tourism pro­mo­tion.

“I would like the tran­si­tional as­pect to be an op­tion to coun­cil.” said Baker.

City coun­cil in late Jan­uary ap­proved a mo­tion to im­ple­ment a MAT, at a rate of four per cent, on all Brockville tran­sient ac­com­mo­da­tions ef­fec­tive May 1.

City of­fi­cials es­ti­mate that in 2019, the first full year of the MAT, rev­enues will amount to $425,000.

Un­der the al­lo­ca­tion for­mula pre­sented at Tues­day’s com­mit­tee meet­ing, the MAT rev­enue, as of De­cem­ber 31, would be al­lo­cated as fol­lows:

* As much as half the pro­ceeds, up to a max­i­mum of $200,000, would go to the Aquatar­ium;

* out of the bal­ance re­main­ing, half is to go to new projects, or new or ex­ist­ing fes­ti­vals, based on rec­om­men­da­tions from the tourism ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee, un­der a process in which ap­pli­ca­tions would be re­ceived and coun­cil would get the fi­nal say, with one-time al­lo­ca­tions, or a max­i­mum of two years;

* the tourism ad­vi­sory com­mit­tee would get 40 per cent of what re­mains “for ad­di­tional mar­ket­ing” that would in­clude city as­sets such as the Aquatar­ium, the Rail­way Tun­nel, Brockville Arts Cen­tre, Brockville Mu­seum, Brockville Pub­lic Li­brary and mu­nic­i­pal har­bour;

* fi­nally, the re­main­ing chunk, which would be 10 per cent of what re­mains after the Aquatar­ium gets its cut, would go to the “city tourism in­fra­struc­ture re­serve,” which the re­port de­scribes as “a re­serve in­tended to be used for tourism­re­lated op­por­tu­ni­ties that are un­known when seed funds are al­lo­cated each year.” City of­fi­cials also rec­om­mend that $50,000 of this year’s MAT re­ceipts, be­fore the for­mula is ap­plied, goes to the Aquatar­ium, as au­tho­rized by a coun­cil res­o­lu­tion July 24.

The al­lo­ca­tion of MAT pro­ceeds would be sub­ject to an­nual ap­proval by coun­cil.

City hall is ask­ing stake­hold­ers to re­spond in writ­ing to the pro­posed al­lo­ca­tion for­mula by Novem­ber 16.

After that, a “MAT im­ple­men­ta­tion work­ing group” would be formed, which would con­sult with city of­fi­cials by Novem­ber 23.

The plan­ning com­mit­tee would then get a re­port back from staff early next month, “with the fi­nal MAT al­lo­ca­tion after con­sid­er­ing writ­ten re­sponses and rec­om­men­da­tion on the im­ple­men­ta­tion.”

RON­ALD ZA­JAC/THE RECORDER AND TIMES

Brockville Mayor David Hen­der­son speaks to city councl's eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment and plan­ning com­mit­tee on Tues­day.

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