ONLINE UPDATE: Wrightsville Beach brakes on ROT flexibility resolution

by Kelly Corbett
Thursday, February 27, 2014

Wrightsville Beach will wait on input from the Wrightsville Beach Marketing Advisory Committee before making a decision about whether to enter into a joint resolution with Kure and Carolina beaches requesting more flexibility with Room Occupancy Tax funds.

In the meantime, Kure and Carolina beaches will proceed with adopting the resolutions during March meetings.

Kure Beach Town Council initiated the request during a January beach towns meeting with local legislators.

The beach town representatives, along with representatives from New Hanover County, the City of Wilmington, marketing committees and the New Hanover County Tourism Development Authority, met at Shell Island on Thursday, Feb. 27, to further discuss ROT flexibility.

 “We have a marketing committee meeting in two weeks,” said Wrightsville Beach Mayor Bill Blair. “… We’re sort of methodical about it.”

The resolution will come before the Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen on Wednesday, March 19.

The resolution wording allows beach towns to use discretion with half of the second 3 percent of ROT funds. Currently, half is used to promote travel and tourism and half is used for tourism-related purposes within the 3 percent.

“This number is bigger to us than it is to any of you other guys,” said Kure Beach Commissioner David Heglar, stressing the resolution’s importance to Kure’s nourishment funding. “For us, if we don’t start pushing the train now, the train’s not going to move. … I don’t see anybody doing taxes on food or booze or anything else in our towns in the short term.”

Individual beach web and mobile sites would disappear if the funding is taken from promotion funds.

Kim Hufham, president and CEO of Wilmington and Beaches Convention and Visitors Bureau, showed the collection and distribution of ROT funds from beach towns and how the dollars are used for marketing.

“You would just be part of the portal of New Hanover County,” Hufham said about the potential result of funds redistribution.

The resolution draft will be sent to the city and county for comments before the beach towns meet.

“We recognized that there would be resistance,” Heglar said. “We recognize that it’s not an easy sell.”

The Town of Wrightsville Beach, with a total budget of about $13.4 million, estimates $553,101 in ROT funds for fiscal year 2013-14, for activities like police and fire.

The 2014 Wrightsville Beach nourishment project totals $8.3 million compared to $12.5 million for the 2013 Carolina and Kure beach nourishment project. In 2011, all three beach towns signed an interlocal agreement agreeing to pay 17.5 percent of nourishment projects, totaling $1.45 million for Wrightsville Beach and $2.19 million for Carolina and Kure beaches, if there is no federal or state funding. The county agreed to pay 82.5 percent without federal and state funds.

Alderwoman Lisa Weeks was absent from the meeting.

The full story will be printed on Thursday, March 6.

email kelly@luminanews.com

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