In what turned out to be a “darts and laurels” letter submitted to St Johns County Tourist Development Council Executive Director, Glenn Hastings, the St Augustine Beach Civic Association has questioned the rationale used to reduce bed tax funding of its “Music by the Sea Concert Series” by 20 percent, and to deny bed tax funding to the City of St Augustine Beach for its annual “Beach Blast Off” event.
According to Civic Association president, Bill Jones, although his organization is grateful that they received 80% of their requested funding, and glad that the “Concerts in the Plaza” were fully funded, he doesn’t understand why the adjustment — given, what he says, are greater returns on investment with the beach events.
“Our question is, why our series should be treated differently by the funding panel,” Jones wrote. “Comparatively Music by the Sea draws over 30 percent more people than Concerts in the Plaza, and produces more events.”
In the comparison cited in Jones’ letter, Music by the Sea is a 21-week program that entertains 800 to 1,500 people each week, with this year’s average being 1,300 attendees weekly. Jones said that the Concerts in the Plaza are only a 16-week program that attracts about 500 to 1,000 people.
Besides greater attendance and five extra performances at the beach, Jones also pointed out that the Pier Park Pavilion, where Music by the Sea is held, is owned by St Johns County — and the event pays the county over $3,000 yearly in rent for its use.
“Both series provide free entertainment that enhances the visitor experience, both should receive the same treatment and full funding,” Jones wrote.
The Beach Blast Off is a boon to the local economy, according to Jones. He says that over 10,000 people attend the event and many local businesses enjoy the residual effect of the influx of people.
“Hotels, motels, restaurants and other local businesses enjoy a post-Christmas bump because of this event,” Jones wrote in his letter. “Our hotels and restaurants have enjoyed the positive economic impact of the Beach Blast Off.”
Jones wants answers for his organization because he feels that the St Augustine Beach zip code (32080) continues to raise a larger portion of the bed tax than any other in the county. “By denying funds or partially funding popular events that either attract visitors or enhance their experience the funding panel is hurting everyone,” Jones observed.
If you plan to attend, the meeting of the St Johns County Tourist Development Council Funding Panel will be held on Monday, August 12, 2013 at 9:00 a.m. in the San Sebastian Conference Room, located in the County Administration Palace located at 500 San Sebastian View in St Augustine. The meeting is open to the public and public comments may be made in accordance with the agenda.