ONLINE UPDATE: TDA votes to keep ROT distribution split

by Cole Dittmer
Wednesday, March 26, 2014

In response to the three beach towns' request for half of the second 3 percent of the county-wide 6-percent Room Occupancy Tax to be available for beach renourishment projects, the TDA Board of Directors voted to keep the ROT distribution the same. 
The vote at the board's Wednesday, March 26, meeting was split 9-6 with the slight majority voting for board member Frank Jones' motion to keep the ROT distribution the same. 
Of the elected officials on the board, New Hanover County Commissioner Jonathan Barfield was the only one to vote for the motion. Wilmington Mayor Bill Saffo joined Wrightsville Beach Mayor Bill Blair, Kure Beach Mayor Dean Lambeth, and Carolina Beach Mayor Dan Wilcox and Mayor Pro Tem LeAnn Pierce in voting against the motion. 
The half of the second 3 percent in question is currently used by the TDA for marketing the county and beaches, as well as funding any tourism-related expenditures. 
With the federal and state governments contributing less and less to beach renourishment, or Coastal Storm Damage Reduction projects, the three beach town mayors said the towns should be able to use some of that half to help fund upcoming projects. 
"I don't think any of us see this as a long-term solution," said Carolina Beach Mayor Dan Wilcox. "We see our beaches as the main tourism generator and we are bringing this to the TDA in hopes that you can help us out in the short term."
Commissioner Jonathan Barfield said it would be unwise to take away from the TDA's marketing budget. 
"No smart businessman cuts advertising money," Barfield said. "I have always been in favor of increasing the marketing budget and I would rather see us increase the Room Occupancy Tax to 8 percent to compete with a place like Myrtle Beach." 
Board member Frank Jones, who made the motion to keep the distribution as is, said the beach towns' request felt rushed. 
"We are rushing into this without any plan about how much you are going to take and for how long," Jones said. "I know you guys needed something done yesterday but I think there are other ways to make this happen." 
The North Carolina General Assembly would have ultimate authority to allow the beach towns access to the additional funds.
After the board's meeting Wrightsville Beach Mayor Bill Blair said he did not know if the beach towns would continue with the request to local delegates like Representative Ted Davis Jr., R-New Hanover, who was in attendance at the meeting. 
email cole@luminanews.com

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