The Canal Winchester Times

Bed tax grants

Fund distribution, applications are likely to change

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Tweaks to the way Canal Winchester's bed tax grants are awarded likely will mean less money for Destination: Canal Winchester and a more detailed application process overall.

Canal Winchester City Council members decided to review the city's grant-issuance legislation and how money from the bed tax is distributed after a contentious award process at the beginning of the year.

Suggestions discussed at a March 31 Committee of the Whole meeting included:

* Creating a more specific application document.

* Requiring awarded funds to be used only for projects aimed at attracting visitors to Canal Winchester.

* Allowing city-run projects, such as the restoration of the OP Chaney Mill, to be candidates for receiving bed tax money.

* Dividing bed tax revenue equally between the city and the convention and visitors bureau -- as required under current city law -- instead of giving Destination: Canal Winchester at least $30,000 annually, regardless of how much the bed tax actually generates.

"I've probably thought more about this process than anyone else on council and I think we need to clearly state the purpose of these grants and what our parameters are," Councilwoman Bobbi Mershon said.

"I don't think we should give anyone an allowance just to do their regular mission, or pay their utility bills. I think it should be for a specific project that helps Canal Winchester."

Council President Rick Deeds said the current application document asks for a bare minimum of information and basically is just looking for a desired dollar figure from applicants.

"If the purpose for the tax is to bring tourists in, then do we want to be buying things like Boy Scout trailers with this money or should we come up with a different fund to pay for that sort of thing?" Councilman Will Bennett asked.

Mershon said she believes that Destination: Canal Winchester, which acts as the city's convention and visitors bureau, should focus its percentage of bed tax funds only on bringing in tourists and the city should be more liberal about which projects it takes on.

Mayor Michael Ebert agreed. He pointed out that the city has been helping the Canal Winchester Historical Society with maintenance of its buildings, but without specific funds for the projects, the assistance has been piecemeal and difficult to stay on top of.

"We started working on the OP Chaney Mill last year and what we did looks pretty good," Ebert said. "If we were offered grant money to do that and get it done, even if not all at once, we could use Bill Sims to manage it like he does so well on all our other projects."

Sims is the city's construction services administrator.

Finance Director Amanda Jackson said one issue with the grant funds is that several years ago, a decision was made to give the CVB $30,000 regardless of revenue from the bed tax. However, she said, there has never been a year where the city collected $60,000 from the tax, so the city has never actually gotten half of what the bed tax generates.

According to Law Director Jennifer Croghan, the bed tax ordinance states that the revenue must be split 50-50 with the CVB. The city may use its share of the money in any manner officials choose, she said.

Ultimately, council members agreed that the funds should be split 50-50 with Destination: Canal Winchester. Members also will work on developing a more specific application document and a vetting process for Jackson to use before she brings any grant applications to council for a vote.

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