Correction, 10:17 a.m.: funding for the Sharonville Convention Center was for a future expansion study, not for furniture.
Visitors to Hamilton County were up last year thanks in part to the All-Star Game. On the whole, the amount of revenue from an occupancy tax has been steadily increasing since 2009.
Hamilton County collected just under $3 million from the transient occupancy tax in the third quarter of 2009. In the same period, the busy summer months of 2015, that had risen to about $5.25 million.
Hamilton County Commissioners are now considering what to do with the extra funds.
"This all comes down to a push and pull between repairing and maintaining the box that is the convention center, both convention centers, and also marketing and promotion of that box. You need both," says Jeff Aluotto, assistant county administrator.
Administration is recommending several possibilities:
- $237,000 for capital improvements to Cooper Creek Events Center in Blue Ash.
- $40,000 for planning for furniture at the Sharonville Convention Center.
- $250,000 for future planning at the Duke Energy Convention Center.
- $50,000 for demolishing the former Sheraton Hotel in Springdale.
- $500,000 to repay an advance from the Hamilton County general fund to Memorial Hall renovations.
That leaves $2,747,000. Hamilton County Budget Analyst Jeff Weckbach says, "Administration is also recommending that we reframe the capital grant project." That program distributes money county wide to projects that will enhance tourism.
Weckbach says it would be better not to have one deadline, instead continuing through a year so communities have more flexibility in making applications.
Aluotto says another option before commissioners is paying down the debt on the Duke Energy Convention Center. "We have around $63 million worth of debt left on the transient occupancy tax. Paying that down is never a bad thing, as such a balance like this could be very important as it relates to freeing up additional capacity or just simply reducing the debt service payments as it is."
And Weckbach adds "In future years we're probably not going to see the extent of what we saw in the third quarter of '15 unless there's another major event that happens here."
How Did We Get Here
The Convention Center Authority was created in 2002 to primarily help finance expansion of the Duke Energy Center. The county enacted a 3.5 percent occupancy tax and the city created a 2.5 percent tax.
The debt service on the Duke Energy Center is about $5.8 million a year and anything not needed to pay the debt service is split proportionately between the city and the county. Ohio Revised Code allows that money to be used for a few different purposes.
The fund had $2.5 million after paying the 2016 debt service. Add to that $1.3 million left over from previous years.