Tourism Development Fund (TDF)

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OVERVIEW 

Williamsburg City Council is considering the establishment of a Tourism Development Fund (TDF).  The proposed program is modeled after other tourist destinations across the United States including Asheville and Virginia Beach. The program is designed to operate as a grant fund with a committee who will review applications for funding and make recommendations for Council approval.  Projects are intended to be tourism-based. This means that a new convention center, a new festival, the Capital Trail extension, park greenways, an expanded theater program, or even downtown lighting enhancements could be considered for a grant award. The fund is not intended for projects such as a new tire store, a water line replacement, or a new office building. The drafted policy states the purpose of the fund as:

“The purpose of the Tourism Development Fund (TDF) is to increase patronage to restaurants, attractions, hotels, and events in the City of Williamsburg through financial assistance and reinvestment in tourism products, place-making projects, special events, public-private partnerships, and destination marketing.”

 

HOW IT WORKS 

The intention of the program is to provide a mechanism for both public and private investment in tourism infrastructure throughout the City of Williamsburg. This investment can be in new projects or in expansion of existing assets.  This investment must be designed to increase visitation at area hotels, attractions and restaurants. 

Competitive markets are investing approximately $4 million in these types of projects. Here are some city revenue streams and the corresponding amount generated (approximate) for each 1% increase:

Property Tax = 1 penny increase $185,000

Meals Tax = $1,300,000

Lodging Tax = $660,000

Sales tax is limited by the Commonwealth to only 1%. Therefore, it cannot be included in our list without action by the General Assembly. The Commonwealth of Virginia empowers Virginia localities to enact a tax on admissions. This means a tax can be placed on tickets to things like concerts, tours, movies, shows and museums. We estimate that if this tax were enacted every 1% would generate $314,000. If we add an admissions tax and remove sales taxes the list looks like:

Property Tax = $105,000 or for each 1 penny increase $185,000

Meals Tax = $1,400,000

Lodging Tax = $660,000

Admissions = $314,000 

As you can see no one revenue stream can or should be expected to support such a funding need.  

These are all taxes that the City of Williamsburg can collect.  Where they differ is who pays them.  The majority of meals, lodging and admissions taxes are paid by visitors to our community.  However, the real property tax is paid exclusively by property owners. 

The proposed revenue generators to create the TDF include meals, lodging and admission taxes.  Several scenarios have been proposed with one goal, reaching the competitive investment amount of $4 million annually.

 

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?

City Council will, over the next few weeks, continue to evaluate this proposal and work toward a policy and revenue plan that is broadly supported. Ultimately, support exists for renewed tourism investment and for increased visitation. How to fund that investment and who decides which projects are suitable for funding remain to be decided. 

 

FAQs

  • Why do we need a Tourism Development Fund (TDF)?
  • Is there a list of potential projects that could be funded by the TDF?
  • What types of projects could be approved?
  • How much would taxes increase if the TDF is approved?
  • What businesses will be subject to the admissions tax?
  • What would this mean for my bill when I eat at a restaurant, stay in a local hotel, or buy a ticket to a movie?
  • Why can’t the City fund the TDF using existing revenues?
More FAQs

Here are some examples of projects in other localities using similar funding:

TDF Gatlinburg TN Parking Garage
TDF Asheville NC Soccer Complex
TDF Charleston SC Galliard Center
TDF Loudon County VA Waterford Fair
TDF Asheville NC Riverfront Destination
TDF Gatlinburg TN Winterfest
TDF Virginia Beach Marathon
TDF Gatlinburg TN Community Center
TDF Myrtle Beach SC Music Fest
TDF Asheville SC Arena

Upcoming meetings for TDF discussion:

July 27, 2017 (Thursday) 6:00 pm to 8:00 pm Community Forum in the Community Building at 401 N. Boundary Street

Previous meetings:

July 8, 2017 (Saturday)  8:00 am – City Council Work Session (specifically to discuss the TDF) - Stryker Center

July 10, 2017 4:00 pm – City Council Work Session - Stryker Center

July 13, 2017 2:00 pm – City Council Meeting - Stryker Center

You do not have to be present to comment on agenda items. Simply go to the City's emeetings page, find the meeting you are interested in, and beside the link for the meeting agenda, click on "eComment" and leave your comment there.