Accommodations Tax Advisory Committee Takes No Action On Charleston Area Convention And Visitors Bureau Contract

By Brian Sherman for The Island Eye News

The Isle of Palms has never had a contract with the Charleston Area Convention & Visitors Bureau that delineates exactly what services the CVB provides with the funds generated from the state’s 2% tax on short term rentals on the island. That still is the case, though members of the Accommodations Tax Advisory Committee might have inched closer to at least making recommendations for an agreement with the organization that will receive what is expected to be in the neighborhood of $1 million from the city during the coming year. At its Aug. 23 meeting, the ATAX Committee considered the contract between Charleston County and the Convention & Visitors Bureau, but City Administrator Desiree Fragoso pointed out that the committee has no authority to approve any type of agreement with the CVB.

“Developing a contract or suggesting what a contract looks like is not part of the statutory requirements or responsibilities of this committee,” she said. “You can recommend a contract to the Council.” Committee member Doug Truslow agreed with Fragoso, noting that the City Council should work out a contract with the CVB, “possibly with input from the ATAX Committee.”

Regardless of what the committee can or cannot do, Chair Ray Burns was unimpressed with the agreement last made between the county and the CVB on Nov. 3, 2021. “It’s a start, but that’s not helpful to me,” Burns stated. 

“I’m personally not ready to have any recommendations on what a contract would look like. We need to do more research.” Burns suggested that one item in a contract with the CVB should spell out who would own intellectual property created by the CVB but paid for by the city. 

“Since the CVB gave us a more detailed budget this year, we see where some of the money is being spent. There’s $30,000 for building a library of photographs and possibly video. I would like to make sure that the city owns that product if we’re paying for it,” he said. “The city could use it for whatever reasons it might want to use it. The Chamber of Commerce could use it.” 

Committee member Chas Akers said the legislation that determines how counties and municipalities can spend their accommodations tax funds is “very narrow in terms of its scope and requirements,” and that the ATAX Committee can’t veto what its chosen destination marketing organization – in this case the CVB – does. “If those are the things we’re interested in doing, in having more transparency and having things much more like an agencyclient relationship, as opposed to one that is proscribed by the legislation, we need to come up with those ideas and standards and go above and beyond the legislation to get the CVB to agree to that because they don’t have to,” he said. “This is a start, and it allows us to create the framework, and, if we gave that to the attorneys with all of our comments, I think it would be a good way to approach the CVB in terms of being able to have something that backs up what we’re trying to receive from them,” he added. “If they don’t perform, then I would say we would have a good reason to pull out because of breach.” Burns said the committee has requested a more detailed explanation of how the CVB spends the money it gets from IOP. “I’m willing to wait and see. I’m willing to give them a chance to satisfy the expenditure part of it,” he concluded. “On the budget part of it, I think they’ve improved. We’ve got to tell them what we want.” Burns said he has asked Rusty Streetman, the Council’s appointed member of the CVB’s board of governors, to report to the ATAX Committee concerning “what’s new, what’s interesting and what we need to know,” possibly starting at the committee’s October meeting. In other action at its Aug. 23 meeting, the ATAX Committee approved $30,000 in ATAX funds to help pay for a new elevator at the Isle of Palms VFW post. 

The City Council is expected to consider the proposal at its September meeting.

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