York County Council’s efforts to gain greater control over the disbursement of millions of dollars in hospitality tax revenues appears to be taking shape.
The council Monday approved first reading of an ordinance establishing a new 11-member hospitality tax committee made up of members appointed by the council. The committee, among other things, would oversee the approximate $1.8 million in yearly tax revenues collected on the sale of prepared foods in unincorporated parts of York County.
While he denied any wrongdoing on behalf of the current committee charged with dispersing the money, councilman Michael Johnson said there’s now, more than ever, a greater need for oversight — and direction.
“This is a lack of the council doing the right things,” Johnson said. “The council has never set an agenda, the council has never said ‘these are the types of projects we want to see you fund.’”
In the seven years since the hospitality tax went into effect, Johnson said the group, “tried their best” to support projects that fund tourism.
But a midst failed plans to build a new Convention and Visitors Bureau headquarters in Rock Hill’s Riverwalk development and a former councilman’s push for new parks near Lake Wylie, council members say the need for oversight has grown.
“We need to ask some harder questions,” Johnson said. “And it’s harder to ask questions to a group that you have no authority over.”
Johnson said the success of the hospitality tax program is also driving efforts for oversight. At nearly $2 million in yearly revenues, Johnson said he and others were starting to notice.
“We hit a point where it’s gotten on the radar screen,” he said.
Under the existing program, a six-member committee reviewed applications for funding, prioritizing events that promote local dining, generate overnight stays in hotels and motels and promoted York County’s historic and cultural venues and recreational facilities.
Under the new plan, that committee would be consulted for future hospitality tax expenditures, but ultimate authority would rest with council.