PARKERSBURG - Wood County commissioners lowered the percentage of hotel/motel tax contributions to the Greater Parkersburg Convention and Visitors Bureau and Innovative Programming Grant fund and raised Mountwood Park's share for the new year.
In 1985, the West Virginia Legislature passed legislation permitting cities and counties to impose a hotel occupancy tax. This "local-option" law mandated bureaus receive at least half the tax proceeds, with the balance used for specified tourism projects.
"We are statutorily required to provide 50 percent of the hotel/motel funds to the CVB. A few years ago the county and cities increased the room occupancy tax to 6 percent which doubled the revenue the CVB received. Many of the counties I polled, as well as the cities, take their remaining 50 percent and provide it for parks and recreation," said commission President Blair Couch.
Couch said historically Wood County has used hotel/motel fees to fund a variety of organizations.
"With the newly created county parks director's position, we increased the Mountwood Park funding to reimburse the county for that position," Couch said.
County parks Director Jeremy Cross' salary is funded from the Mountwood Park, Veterans Park and Fort Boreman Park budgets.
After raising the room occupancy tax from 3 to 6 percent, in 2008 the county commission adopted guidelines for the 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 the purpose was to bring visitors to the area and increase hotel stays.
"The innovative grant fund has been successful and we have used other funds when a grant may or may not qualify, and we have not expended all those funds every year, so we were able to reduce that as well and provide that money to the parks systems, and changed how we fund other entities. The reminder of the entities stay the same. If an entity has a special program or problem we maintain an open door policy for them to come and make requests," Couch said.
The hotel/motel revenue to the commission comes from hotels/motels located outside corporate limits. In the 2011-2012 hotel/motel tax budget the CVB was to receive 52 percent, in 2011-2012 that generated $246,355. For the new budget year, the commission lowered the percentage to the CVB to 50 percent which is still projected to raise $263,094.
The percentage to Mountwood Park went from 14 percent to 18 percent. In 2011/2012 Mountwood received $66,326 from the hotel/motel tax, the projected amount to be raised from the 50 percent is $94,714.
The percentage to the Innovative Grant Fund went from 6.5 percent to 8.5 percent, generating $40,270 last year and projected to raise $34,202 this year.
The other entities receiving hotel/motel tax and their percentages are Actors Guild, 1 percent; Artsbridge, 2 percent; Belleville Homecoming, 0.75 percent; Blennerhassett Historical Foundation, 0.50 percent; Fort Boreman Park, 2.75 percent; Julia-Ann Square Historical Society, 1 percent; Oil and Gas Museum, 1.50 percent; Art Center, 1.50 percent; Parkersburg News and Sentinel Half Marathon, 0.50 percent; Parkersburg Homecoming, 2.50 percent; the CVB, 50 percent; Smoot Theatre, 2.90 percent; Mountwood Park, 18 percent; Veterans Museum, 1.10 percent; Wood County Historical Society, 0.50 percent; West Virginia Interstate Fair and Expo, 4 percent; Veterans Park, 2.50 percent; Mid-Ohio Valley Multi-Cultural Festival, 0.50 percent; and Innovative Grant Program, 6.5 percent.
Projected income from the hotel/motel tax for 2012-2013 is listed as $526,188.