Changes may be coming to the city’s accommodation tax grant program.
The current bylaw has been under review, with a committee exploring the possibility of changing the criteria to allow funding for capital projects and facility upgrades.
Coun. Stephen Montague (Richmond) recommended the review back in March and says the committee plans to bring a report to council at the upcoming August meeting.
“We’re seeing a good portion of that fund and of that money not being used, so my idea … was to try to find a way that we can better use it that would enhance the tourism opportunities that Brandon has,” he said. “But also to … better enhance our hosting facilities without having to tie it to a specific event.”
Brandon’s hotel tax has been in place since July 2012, which adds $3.15 per night to a guest’s bill. The goal is to provide grants for tourism initiatives, particularly for attracting or keeping events in Brandon.
To date, $450,900 has been approved in accommodation tax grants. Since the hotel tax was implemented in July 2012, $1.27 million has been collected, which includes $171,300 in the first quarter of 2014.
Under the current bylaw, there are two streams of accommodation tax grants — for events, and for capital funding. In order to be eligible for capital funding, it has to be directly tied to an event. In 2013, there were no capital funding requests.
“Our concern was that the capital component of the accommodation tax wasn’t being utilized. Even now, we didn’t propose our first capital project until a couple weeks ago,” Montague said.
Last month, council approved the first capital grant through the accommodation tax reserve of $38,000 for the Keystone Centre to spruce up horse stalls necessary for the Canadian National Arabian & Half-Arabian Championship Horse Show coming up in August.
Facilities like the Keystone Centre and the Western Manitoba Centennial Auditorium host many large events in Brandon, and Montague says his view is that upgrades or enhancements to these types of venues could potentially draw other events to the city.
“It’s our feeling that it would enhance the ability of the accommodation tax, it would enhance the hosting facilities in our city, and I think it would meet the end goal of what we started out the accommodation tax for, which is to bring more visitors to our city, to enhance our hosting capabilities, and to really showcase our city.”
Originally, the committee’s report was to be presented to council by the end of June, but there has been some delay.
“Some of the details have taken a little longer to work out, and working out some of the logistics of it,” Montague said. “We do want to come forward with a good plan.”
Keystone Centre general manager Neil Thomson is looking forward to the recommendations, as he hopes the facility will be able to cash in on more grants.
“It would be nice to have access to capital funding that we could utilize throughout the facility,” he said.
Things like new tables and chairs and Zamboni replacement are a few examples of upgrades the Keystone needs, but aren’t tied to one specific event.
“You can’t really say a table and a chair is for an event, but it’s all part of the entire experience when a guest comes to the facility,” he said.
The outdoor stage, which will be used this weekend for the Brandon Folk, Music & Art Festival, is also in need of improvements.
“That’s a pretty rough, small stage. We’d love to have a proper facility there that can handle the proper lighting and sound and all that kind of stuff and that would help us to put on more events there.”
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