Task force on TDT spending urges broader criteria, including jobs and community needs
A citizens task force is recommending that Orange County spend millions of dollars in tourist taxes on major sporting and entertainment venues and three organizations that offer grants for arts, culture and sports.
But some members of Tourist Development TaxCitizens Advisory Task Force indicated Monday that they wish uncommitted portions of the hotel tax – which brings in more than $300 million a year -- could help fund broader community needs.
The committee, established this year by Mayor Jerry Demings, followed the county’s criteria to recommend funding for renovations at the Convention Center, a roof for Camping World Stadium, maintenance and updates at the Amway Center, enhancements to Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts and a sports village at University of Central Florida.
But the committee also voted to recommend that the county update its evaluation criteria to include impacts on jobs and the community.
“The current evaluation process is too focused on strictly financial return on investment,” said Thor Falk, a task force member representing The Pride Chamber. “And I think there are many other returns that the county will experience if we have a broader range of questions to evaluate.”
Some members pushed to use the hotel tax for mass transit and affordable housing – by reinterpreting state law or lobbying for changes to it.
On a contested motion from co-chair Jane Healy, the task force recommended that county leaders lobby the state for an expanded one-cent Tourist Impact Tax – possibly adding $30 million a year for affordable housing.
Healy said that could be accomplished opening that additional hotel tax – which must be approved by a local referendum — to all counties instead of limiting it to state-designated Areas of Critical State Concern.
Brendan Lynch, representing the Central Florida Hotel and Lodging Association, said the task force wasn’t the venue for discussion. Lynch opposed the idea, citing a new law, the Live Local Act, that addresses affordable housing.
“That bill,” he said, “was just passed this year, just a couple months ago. I would say, quite frankly, we have to see how that works – if this was the appropriate venue – before we start pushing for other changes.”
The Tourist Development Council takes up the recommendations on Tuesday. The County Commission will make the final decisions.