Division over hotel tax
Formula would allocate up to half the municipal accommodation tax to Aquatarium
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.”
Brockville Mayor David Henderson speaks to city councl's economic development and planning committee on Tuesday.