Event facilities, heritage sites and cultural projects should be eligible to apply for capital grants through the city’s accommodation tax fund — even if the request isn’t tied to a specific event.
That is the main recommendation put forward by a review committee made up of four Brandon city councillors.
"We have a lot of event-hosting facilities in Brandon that can benefit from some enhancements but are not tied to a specific event," said Coun. Stephen Montague (Richmond). "We have things like arts, culture and heritage sites that increase the tourism basket that we can offer our visitors, that don’t right now have a stream to go through."
Brandon’s hotel tax, which adds $3.15 per night to a guest’s bill, has been in place since July 2012. The goal is to provide grants for tourism initiatives, particularly for attracting or keeping events in Brandon. The program also includes a capital component in which grants are provided if the capital upgrade is for an event.
In the past two years there was just one capital grant awarded. This past June, council approved $38,000 for the Keystone Centre to spruce up horse stalls necessary for the Canadian National Arabian & Half-Arabian Championship Horse Show held in August.
"It’s become clear that the status quo is not working," states the report from the accommodation tax review committee.
The committee, formed last March, includes Montague, as well as councillors Jeff Fawcett (Assiniboine), Jeff Harwood (University) and Shawn Berry (Linden Lanes).
The committee presented the recommendations to council last night. They include the creation of two streams of capital funding. The first would be the current event-specific stream, while the second stream would remove the event-specific criteria and be based on a variety of evaluations, such as other government funding, private fundraising and the overall benefit to tourism/event hosting potential.
"Each would be evaluated by the matrix developed, depending on which stream of capital funding the project applied under," states the report.
Discussion on the topic went on for more than an hour, with Coun. John LoRegio (Meadows) suggesting a special meeting should be held instead of trying to "cram it into a regular council meeting."
If approved, examples of venues and projects that may be able to qualify for the second stream of capital funding include the Keystone Centre, the Commonwealth Air Training Plan Museum, monuments like the Royal Canadian Air Force memorial, Daly House Museum, and Brandon General Museum and Archives.
"We know … the Keystone is in dire need of repairs and upgrades," Montague said. "You look at what they’ve done in rooms like the amphitheatre … well that helps with event hosting."
Montague called the Keystone an "economic catalyst" for the Westman region.
"Without that, Brandon loses a good, substantial portion of its hosting capabilities," he said.
Other recommendations from the committee include limiting the accommodation tax capital funding to $200,000 per entity, per year.
Capital funding requests should be accompanied by a minimum of two cost estimates for the project.
Members of the review committee also recommend that the city’s grants review committee mandate should include the consideration of applications to the accommodations tax reserve.
As of earlier this summer, a total of $1.27 million had been collected since the hotel tax was implemented in 2012 and of that, $450,900 had been approved in grants.
The goal is for administration to bring back the recommendations to council for first reading at the Oct. 6 meeting.
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