The committee in charge of figuring out to distribute Newberg's excess tourism funds through grants to tourism-boosting projects will have substantially more to work with in the coming six months.
While the primarily citizen ad-hoc committee had about $250,000 to spend on large grants this year, the committee instead took the past few months making adjustments to the grant program, leaving all of that money to be folded into this year's program, according to Doug Rux, community development director at the city of Newberg.
"So we have roughly about $430,000 next fiscal year — that doesn't mean you have to award it all; we have up to that much money — that would be available," Rux said during a June 19th update before the City Council.
The money at issue comes from the transient lodging tax, which is collected from local hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts and vacation rentals. While the bulk of the tax is open for the city to use, state law says that a portion of the revenue collected must be spent on local tourism development efforts.
Formed by council action last fall and convened in January, the 13-member Transient Lodging Tax Ad-Hoc Committee is tasked with recommending how that money be spent by hearing funding requests for projects that will draw more tourists to town, deciding which projects have merit and making a recommendation to the council, which has the final say on funding approval.
The committee set up and carried out a small grant program earlier this year, doling out — after council approved their recommendations — about $20,000 to several programs in the area that would use the money to draw more tourists to Newberg, specifically staying the night and Newberg and effectively generating revenue through the lodging tax. Some of the awards included money to support annual events in Newberg like the Camellia Festival and the Newberg Old Fashioned Festival.
After going through that process, Rux explained that the council has spent the past several months since then revising and editing the criteria, requirements, application and contract for the "large grant" destination development and marketing program, then making sure all aspects were realigned with those changes.
Since the fiscal year to distribute those funds ends Friday, the $250,000 available has been folded into next year's budget, bringing the total available in the next year to about $430,000.
Rux said he planned to put out solicitations for the large grant program in the first week of July and keep the application period open for about three months. He anticipated the committee would then review funding requests in the coming months and inform applicants of the committee and city decisions in January.