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Applicants clamoring for coveted LTAC funds

By JESSICA HOCH

Staff Writer

The city plans to allocate the largest amount of money ever dispersed for the Civic Improvement/Lodging Tax Fund in 2011.

Representatives from more than a dozen community organizations met at city hall this week to hear how to access part of the $135,000 available for projects that promote tourism on the island.

This year’s amount is an increase of $10,000 over last year and is reserved for projects to be completed in 2011.

Individual proposals are eligible to receive up to $15,000 to fund projects that either create or expand tourism promotion programs on the island. City Council member Kim Brackett said the city plans to set aside $35,000 for improvements on city tourism-related projects, but the rest of the monies will be awarded to community members.

This year applicants will present their projects to the Lodging Tax Advisory Committee (LTAC), the group that recommends how lodging tax revenues are spent, in addition to filling out a proposal form, according to Brackett.

Last year the city received $292,700 worth of proposals and allocated $125,000, which left around $55,000 in the budget. This year the committee plans to disperse all $135,000 from the fund, and gauging from the participation at the informational meeting expects the process to be competitive.

“Attendance was significantly more than in previous years and with the current economy this is a funding opportunity to do some exciting and interesting projects that might really benefit the Bainbridge economy,” said Cathie Currie, the city’s communications director.

All but a few of the approximately 30 people attending were representatives from different organizations.

The actual amount in the fund could still fluctuate. The lodging tax is a 2 percent tax levied by the state on all overnight stays within city limits, and is doubled by the state and returned to the city.

There is a two-month delay in receiving the lodging tax so the actual amount in the fund will vary as numbers come in from the state.

As part of the proposal process, organizations have to find a way to demonstrate their project will increase the number of “heads in beds” on the island.

Victoria Josslin, the Bainbridge Arts and Crafts director of education and information, attended the meeting and was concerned at first that her organization would have a hard time proving their project would keep people on the island overnight.

“It’s hard for us to say that people come here and buy lodging to go to Bainbridge Arts and Crafts because they probably don’t and we couldn’t say that they do,” said Josslin.

“But [LTAC] explained they value the tourism created by a rich cultural life and we certainly feel like we can argue that point and we do add to the rich cultural life,” she added.

Josslin said that in the past her organization has had the most luck with getting lodging funds with advertising projects that are based off the island, such as a cover page for an arts magazine, that will attract visitors from all over to come experience arts on the island.

Brackett encouraged applicants to be creative in demonstrating how their program attracts tourists.

“We are aware not everyone spends the night,” said Brackett. “And we know the financial value of day-trippers to the island.”

Projects that draw visitors to the island during the off-season can receive bonus points in the review process.

Organizations that partner up can increase the amount of funds their project is eligible for up to $15,000 per organization involved on the project.

Each city is awarded a different amount for the lodging tax fund. This year Pouslbo received $130,000, Port Orchard $60,000, Bremerton $400,000 and Kitsap County was awarded $300,000.

Proposals will be accepted until Oct. 1 at 4 p.m. and forms are available online or at the city office.

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