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FRIDAY, MARCH 23, 2007
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Visitors bureau sets policy for funding special events

By Paul Huggins
phuggins@decaturdaily.com 340-2395

To show accountability for tax dollars and to deflect accusations of favoritism, the Decatur-Morgan County Convention and Visitors Bureau established criteria for special events funding.

The bureau identified two types of events that can receive financial help: impactful and enhancement.

Impactful events are those that draw out-of-town visitors and have a positive impact on the local economy — the Alabama Jubilee Hot Air Balloon Classic, for example.

The bureau board of directors will determine which events qualify as impactful and the amount of money they receive on a case-by-case basis.

Enhancement events are those that don't attract a lot of visitors to the area but still add to the quality of experiences during a guest's stay — Battle for Decatur, for example.

The bureau established a $10,000 fund for all enhancement events and set a limit of $3,000 for any one event.

The new criteria also identify qualified expenses, such as advertising, entertainment or sanitation, while also disallowing administrative expenses.

As part of the new criteria, organizations that seek funds for 2008 events must complete an application by July 1. Organizations must re-apply annually.

Last year, the City Council decided to give the bureau an extra 25 percent of lodging tax revenue along with the extra responsibility of funding special events. The action removed the council from having to include special events in its budget.

The bureau administered special events funds this past year essentially the same as the city had done, but recently researched other bureaus to learn ways to improve the process.

Bureau President Tami Reist said she likes the criteria because they put approval in the hands of the entire board and not just one individual, so it can avoid opportunities for personal favoritism. It also shows how the bureau is a good steward of tax dollars, she said.

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