PARKERSBURG - Revenues raised through Wood County's hotel/motel occupancy tax are projected to be up this year.
For fiscal year 2012-2013 the county received $526,188, and for 2013-2014 hotel/motel tax revenues of $671,376 have been forecast for this fiscal year. The new year's projections are based on an average over the last seven months of the previous year.
"The revenue continues to increase with the number of visitors, so some organizations, even though the percentages remain flat, have seen a significant increase year after year because the amount of the revenue brought in by the tax allows that to go forward," said Commissioner Blair Couch. "We all three love the innovative grant program. It's one of the best programs we offer."
Couch said some modifications were made in this year's hotel/motel budget, including granting the Mid-Ohio Valley Multi-Cultural Festival's request for a dollar amount rather than a percentage of the hotel/motel tax revenue. The festival will now receive a set $5,000 out of the general county revenues.
During an earlier meeting, festival officials said they would like to have a set amount of funding contributed by the county commission instead of relying on a percentage of hotel/motel tax which varies from year to year. In a letter to the commission, Rick Rubin, festival president, asked the commission to consider allocating $7,500 to the festival instead of the 0.5 percent of the hotel/motel tax. Couch said the commission has budgeted $5,000 this year. Last year's hotel tax raised $2,631 for the festival. The festival has now been built into the county's budget, and the contribution will come from general county revenues.
Other changes in this year's hotel/motel budget include an increase for Fort Boreman Park from 2.75 percent last year to 3 percent this year; the percentage for the West Virginia Interstate Fair and Exposition went from 4 percent to 3.75 percent, and the percentage set aside for the Innovative Grant Program was increased from 6.5 percent to 7 percent.
In 1985, the West Virginia Legislature passed a bill permitting cities and counties to impose a hotel occupancy tax. This "local-option" law mandated convention and visitors bureaus receive at least half the tax proceeds, with the balance used for specified tourism/recreation/parks projects and programs. The county's tax is collected only from hotels/motels outside corporate limits, cities can have their own hotel/motel tax.
In 2008 the county commissioners raised the room occupancy tax from 3 to 6 percent.
After raising the rate the commission created and adopted guidelines for a new Innovative Program Grant/Special Promotions Fund, which is funded through a percentage of the county's share of hotel/motel tax revenues. These grant funds are offered on a competitive basis. When the grant program was created, county officials said it was to bring visitors to the area and increase hotel stays. The majority of the innovative grant funds have been used to help fund sporting events, like tournaments to the area. The commission asks to see the number of room nights generated by the events.
Under the 2013-2014 budget, the hotel/motel tax distributions will be: Actors Guild, 1 percent, with a $5,000 cap, projected to raise $6,714. Artsbridge, 2 percent, projected to raise $13,428; Belleville Homecoming, 0.75 percent, projected to raise $5,035; Blennerhassett Historical Foundation, 0.50 percent, with a cap of $2,500, projected to raise $3,357 this year. Fort Boreman Park, 3 percent, projected to raise $20,141; Julia-Ann Square Historical Society, 1 percent, with a $5,000 cap, expected to raise $6,714 this year; Oil and Gas Museum, 1.50 percent, expected to raise $10,071 this year; Art Center, 1.50 percent, expected to raise $10,071 this year, there is a $5,000 cap on this funding; Parkersburg News and Sentinel Half Marathon, 0.50 percent, projected to raise $3,357. This event also has a $5,000 cap; Parkersburg Homecoming, 2.50 percent, expected to raise $16,784; the Greater Parkersburg Convention and Visitor's Bureau, 50 percent, projected to raise $335,688; Smoot Theatre, 2.90 percent, expected to generate $19,470; Mountwood Park, 18 percent, projected to raise $120,848; Veterans Museum, 1.10 percent, to raise $7,385; Wood County Historical and Preservation Society, 0.50 percent, projected to raise $3,357 this year. There is a $2,500 cap on this funding; West Virginia Interstate Fair and Expo, 3.75 percent, expected to generate $25,177; Veterans Park, 2.50 percent, expected to raise $16,784, and the Innovative Grant Program, 7 percent, projected to raise $46,996.
Funds collected over any caps imposed for entities are supposed to go back into Veterans Park and Fort Boreman Park, according to county officials.