Headline News
Go Back
2015-09-17

'Butts in bed booty' reaches nearly $500K

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

This article on the Bandera County Convention and Visitors Bureau allotment from the HOT (Hotel Occupancy Tax) funds echoes last year's reportage.
Even the sentiment, "It takes a lot of moola to keep little Bandera on the tourismo map," remains the same - except each year, brings the need for a little more moola. Prepare for next year's CVB budget to crack the magic half million dollar mark.
Executive Director Patricia Moore submitted her proposed budget for fiscal year 2015-2016 to commissioners court on Thursday, Sept. 10. The whopping $481,125 includes $90,000 in a projected cash reserve from the previous year's budget.
The funds are generated from a tax on out-of-county visitors who stay in hotels, motels and beds and breakfasts located in unincorporated parts of the county.
According to Auditor Christina Moreno, HOT funds are funneled from the county to the CVB monthly as collected from county hoteliers. The funds do not remain in county government accounts long enough to accrue interest, she said.
Precinct 4 Commissioner Jordan "Jody" Rutherford asked if the books of the CVB had ever been audited. When Moore replied in the negative, he postulated that handing over nearly half a million dollars annually should certainly warrant an audit. The CVB is the only organization ever to receive HOT funds.
In an interview, Rutherford noted, "Fire departments that receive money from the county are required to submit to an annual audit. I think the CVB should, too."
One seemingly recent development was an outreach to international markets via an affiliation with Brand USA - Miles Media.
"This partnership will allow us to have a dedicated video on their website and a presence in their travel guide," Moore said. "The guide is translated into numerous foreign languages and appears on their website." Brand USA is a private-public partnership, which promotes US tourism.
This affiliation is an about-face from a 2009 announcement by CVB Board of Directors President Homer Stevens. No funds for international marketing were available when Elenora Dugosh Goodly requested monetary assistance to market Bandera to emerging countries in Eastern Europe, including Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Ukraine.
During a meeting in October 2009, Stevens told the court the CVB board had denied Goodley's request for a proposed advertising blitz throughout Eastern Europe.
She had requested an allocation of $10,000 from the CVB for the production of several 45-minute documentaries recorded in English about Bandera and its Polish connections, as well as for 32 30-second television spots. Additionally, the board refused Goodley an opportunity to pitch her project in person before denying her request.
"I offered to discuss this once-in-a-lifetime offer with them personally, but they weren't interested," Goodley said at the time.
The board also failed to answer a letter written by former Precinct 1 Commissioner Bruce Eliker in support of the project. "It disappoints me there wasn't open representation about this project before the CVB Board," Eliker said in an interview.
Defending her board's position, Moore said, "The board is generally not in favor of international advertising at this point. We find advertising in Houston, Austin or Dallas gives us more return on our money."
In fact, one former board member noted, "If we do this, we'll have to take out the Houston Rodeo and Houston is vital to us."
However, when asked by Judge Richard Evans at that time, Moore admitted the use of hotel-motel funds for advertising internationally "is allowed, but not encouraged."
During last week's meeting, Evans queried as to whether the CVB had ever turned down a request for funding. Forgetting Goodley's 2009 request, Moore replied, "No."
According to the CVB's 2015-2016 budget allocations would fund out-of-county advertising for Bandera ProRodeo Memorial Day Weekend, $4,000; Bandera County Chamber of Commerce for Hunter's Barbecue, $3,000; Bandera Business Association for RiverFest, $3,000; Trail of Lights, $600; and Mayhem on the Medina, $3,500; Bandera Community Foundation for Celebrate Bandera, $3,500; Bandera County Library for Wild Hog Explosion, $3,000; Bandera County Historical Commission for publication of "The Bandera County Historian," $1,000; Frontier Times Museum for National Day of the American Cowboy Ranch Rodeo, $3,000; Bandera Community Foundation for Bandera Posse, $2,500; and Medina Lake Betterment Association for the Cajun Festival, $3,000.
It should be noted that Genie Strickland, a member of the CVB Board of Directors, also serves as a paid event coordinator for RiverFest, Mayhem on the Medina, Celebrate Bandera and the Wild Hog Explosion.
"In addition to the allocations for advertising, the CVB has also assisted other events in the county that help bring tourism to the area, including the Buck Wild Rodeo produced by the Ridin' the River Cowboy Fellowship, the Medina Volunteer Fire Department's Hunters Dinner and the annual Hill Country MusicFest that benefits the Kiwanis Club scholarships," Moore said.
As expected, commissioners approved the CVB budget and extended the contract, enabling the organization to receive HOT funds for another year.
However, as a last word, Evans told Moore, "We'll need to discuss an audit," to which Moore agreed with alacrity. Rutherford indicated he would place the audit on a future agenda for a full discussion.