Last night one of the topics Council discussed was the disbursement of A-Tax funds for the upcoming year. As a reminder, A-tax (or accommodations tax) funds are those that are collected when we go out to local businesses and eat. There’s an extra 2% tax. Once collected, that money is put into a Special Revenue Fund. Those funds are restricted by state law to pay for things that serve and attract tourists and benefit those tourists who regularly visit the city. State law also dictates that an A-Tax Committee is appointed by Council to make recommendations regarding disbursement of available funds each year.
The A-Tax Committee receives applications for those funds. They review them and make recommendations to Council. Last night, we received their recommendations. One of the items I was most excited about was the awarding of funds for the building of public restrooms downtown. With the exception of the Councilwoman from Ward 4, we all approved of this item. Ms. Braswell expressed concern that such a project did not meet the A-tax guidelines. She doesn’t think they’re tourism-related. I disagree. So did Councilman Gooch and Mayor Curtis in their comments, and the other 3 councilmembers did by virtue of their votes. The vote was 6-1.
Last Friday night, I went downtown, and it was hopping! People were everywhere. In large part, I believe this is because we have attracted the right businesses to our downtown area. In the last several months, we’ve had many new establishments open: What’s on Tap, Sweet Sippin’, Authentique, and now Rail Line Brewing! The new swings and the rejuvenated park benches all contribute to making downtown a great
place to hang out. So it’s not surprising that this is the first time I’ve seen downtown so busy outside of special events. It was amazing. And you better believe some of those people were from outside the city limits. Further, every time we hold an event downtown, we bring in people from outside the city. But there’s no place to use the bathroom unless you visit one of the local businesses. So I don’t see how public restrooms for those people to use is anything other than a facility that will “benefit those tourists who regularly visit the city.”
Since this was a Committee of the Whole Meeting, we will have a final vote at our November Business Meeting. I hope Council continues to support funding this item. It can only help as we continue to grow our downtown into a place where people want to visit and stay awhile, and that’s something I’ve been focused on since my Campaign Launch. It will also fit in nicely with the plan we submitted for the Hometown Economic Development grant to turn the empty downtown alley into a new dynamic outdoor space.
In 2015, I promised to work towards improving our downtown. Today, we’re making that happen: promises made, promises kept.