When appointed members of the St Johns County Tourist Development Council met Monday, they were still not convinced that their subcommittee, the Arts, Culture and Heritage Funding Panel, had carried out their charge to fairly and objectively evaluate grant applications for Category II local option tourist development tax.
Board member Jack Peter moved to have the applications re-graded under the same criteria — that being 30 points for cultural development programming and presentation, 30 points for marketing and advertising plan to attract visitors, 25 points for program schedule, relative to demand period, 5 points for lodging and hospitality partnerships, and 10 points for demonstrated program management capability.
“During the discussion, the conversation was split as to what to do,” Glenn Hastings, Executive Director of the Tourist Development Council reported to Historic City News. “But, all TDC members present voted to send it back to the Funding Panel.”
The difference this time is a caveat that a full, seven-member, panel evaluate the applications — the funding panel currently has two vacancies, and, during the initial scoring process, two members announced conflicts that precluded them from voting on certain grant requests.
“The recommendation was to fill the two vacancies and do a complete review, rescoring, reallocation process,” Hastings said. “The criteria must remain the same and the applications cannot be changed – but some geographic consideration will be included.”
Monday, August 26th, is the second time the Tourist Development Council has viewed, and rejected, the grant recommendations from the controversial Funding Panel. At their last meeting on July 15th, the Council instructed the Funding Panel to revisit the applications and allocate the full amount budgeted of $550,000. In response to criticism from some members of the arts, culture and historic tourism community, the panel was also instructed to take a look at all geographic locations to make sure that all areas are considered.
Dissatisfaction with what some are calling a subjective process, allegedly rife with favoritism, led to recent complaints by some organizations who question the methods employed to distribute the millions of dollars annually in bed tax money, the choice of which organizations will receive funding, and which will not.
“We need to take another look at the process of these applications,” Peter said in the meeting, Monday. “There are still some inherent flaws in the process — it’s the same argument we’ve had for years.”
Historic City News published details of written complaints from the City of St Augustine Beach, the St Augustine Beach Civic Association, the St Augustine Art Association, Romanza and the Celtic Music and Heritage Festival, which were aired during the Panel’s meeting on August 12th.
September 30th is the last day of the Fiscal year and the recommendations of the funding panel, and recommendations of the Tourist Development Council, still need to go before the St Johns County Board of Commissioners; the only body with authority to actually grant the money.
Historic City News asked Hastings if there is a date when all of this must be complete.
“There wasn’t a specific date set, but we know that there are about a dozen events between October 1 and January 1, so we want to complete this ASAP,” Hastings replied. “I am working on a timeline as we speak.”