Highland Board Of Supervisors December Work Session
The agenda was relatively bare for the Highland County Board of Supervisors December work session, with only one new item of business to attend to.
Donna Bedwell, of the Tourism Council, a sub-committee of the EDA, appeared before the Board to report on a presentation they had presented to the full EDA regarding the transient occupancy tax. The tax was implemented in 2014 to help fund some of the tourism initiatives of the county outlined in the Tourism Strategic Plan. At the time, the percentage rate was set at 2%, which was the maximum which could be levied without state legislative approval. State Representative Dickie Bell went before the General Assembly on Highland’s behalf, and gained approval for that rate to be increased to 5%, but no changes has been made. Ms. Bedwell noted that at the time, the feeling of the Board was to see how the Tourism Council would apply the original amount of monies received, and show fiscal responsibility. She noted that in the two year period since then, the Council had made major strides with the funding they received, including leveraging it to gain further grants, a re-design of the website, advertising and marketing initiatives, such as the “Find Your Sweet Spot” campaign.
The projections at the beginning of the tax were to raise $5,000 per year – she reported that this past fiscal year, the income was $7,600 – this is from a reported 140 rental rooms in the county. The upcoming year’s budget is based on that hard income number, and not on assumptions of income. Board chair noted it was nice to be able to put a number to some of the tourism county the money receives – at that rate, the lodging income for the county would be roughly $350,000 per year.
Mr. Wagner also wondered whether an official request was needed by the EDA to move forward. EDA chair Nancy Witschey was in attendance to confirm the Council had made the presentation, and the EDA was in favor of the request. County Attorney Melissa Dowd said that affirmation was all that was needed to move forward. The next step will be a public hearing, which was set for the February work session, which would allow adequate time for advertisement.
No other items were on the agenda, and the meeting ended with a closed session for personnel. The Supervisor will hold their first meeting of 2017 on January 3rd, at 7:30 pm at the county modular building.