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Commissioners move to reduce money to Visit Orlando

Mayor Jerry Demmings during an Orange County Commissioners meeting, discussing his plans to reduce funds to Visit Orlando and provide $15 million to the arts and sports incentive committees.
Orange TV
Mayor Jerry Demings during an Orange County Commissioners meeting, discussing his plans to reduce funds to Visit Orlando and provide $15 million to the arts and sports incentive committees.

Orange County commissioners voted on plans Tuesday to allocate a portion of Visit Orlando's annual funds and add representation and transparency to its board.

The tourism, marketing agency receives funding from the county's Tourism Development Tax dollars - generated from overnight visitors in county hotels.

Mayor Jerry Demings released a memo Monday with plans to reduce funding and use it in other projects, which commissioners largely agreed with.

Currently, Visit Orlando receives 30% of TDT dollars — last year that meant the agency received $107 million, according to the county. Prior to Tuesday's meeting, the original plan called to reduce funds to 25% — a plan favored by Commissioner Emily Bonilla, who was the only commissioner to vote "no" on the plan. Tuesday's meeting used language suggesting the agency's funding would be reduced by $15 million. Demings later pointed out that a $15 million reduction would result in Visit Orlando receiving 25% of TDT dollars.

The money saved will be allocated to different projects: $5 million will be used for the Application Review Committee, or ARC — which considers capital funding for the arts and cultural events — and the remaining $10 million will be used toward the sports incentive committee's funding.

Demings said Orlando’s role as a sports venue is an economic generator and has become an attractive place for sports such as the recent bowl games and the upcoming Olympic trials.

“That's extraordinary. That gives our community great exposure. We cannot attract those types of events in our community. If we don't have incentives,” he said.They put people in our hotels, they create opportunities for Westlakes and all of these people who are sitting here today to also be a part of the economic prosperity associated with all of those events that happen at Camping World stadium."

Commissioners also agreed on providing $400 million in TDT funding for upgrades in Camping World Stadium.

Among the other changes, Visit Orlando must also add a commissioner as a voting member to its executive board. It was agreed that the commissioner from the district with the greatest total property value associated with hotels would serve on the board. Additionally, Visit Orlando will have to participate in an audit by the comptroller.

Demings said Visit Orlando has already agreed to participate.

"They're not fearful of having an audit done, they want to be transparent. Our board wants to see that audit done," Demings said.

Originally from South Florida, Joe Mario came to Orlando to attend the University of Central Florida where he graduated with degrees in Radio & Television Production, Film, and Psychology. He worked several beats and covered multimedia at The Villages Daily Sun but returned to the City Beautiful as a reporter for the Orlando Sentinel where he covered crime, hurricanes, and viral news. Joe Mario has too many interests and not enough time but tries to focus on his love for strange stories in comic books and horror movies. When he's not writing he loves to run in his spare time.
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