Controversy surrounding the Wimberley Hotel Occupancy Tax (HOT) Committee surfaced Dec. 1 as Wimberley’s City Council addressed criticism received by committee members on the funding process.
Mayor Mac McCullough brought this item to the agenda, seeking to potentially do away with the committee and create some other governing body to help determine how HOT tax proceeds are used.
“This committee was approved Sept. 15, last year, 2015, and it was given three year timeline … Since that time, you’ve had a 48% percent turnover in your volunteers, [losing three members], so there’s something not working there.” said McCullough.
Members of the HOT committee addressed displeasure with criticism they’ve received, despite their best efforts to handle the task using the tools given to them by the city.
Committee members who addressed council said the process has been draining and several members have stepped down. Most recently, Tomas Palm, who was the HOT Committee chairperson, stepped down from his position.
“We’re the most attacked and oppressed board this city has. We’ve been talked about and called names, publicly put down, belittled and berated by city officials as well as public representatives,” said Mark Burseil, member of the HOT committee.
Over the past 18 months, the HOT committee received its first rounds of proposals for HOT funding. Those include projects for the 3rd and 4th quarters, which have yielded a 63% approval rate from the committee on proposals.
In order to receive funding, businesses and organizations were required to apply while following criteria set forth by the committee. That includes the committee deciding if the application brings “heads in beds,” along with an applicant’s return on investment.
Several of the projects they have green lighted were Photography Workshop and the Wimberley Alive Music Festival.
“Since the time this board formed of seven volunteers, we have worked many hours to create the guidelines that not only follow the laws of Texas, but also fit into the city master plan, maintaining the quaint, small town aura,” Burseil said.
However, committee members said the proposals coming to the committee haven’t been projects they believe bring in overnight tourists to the community. Committee members said bringing overnight tourists is the whole purpose of creating the HOT tax in the first place.
“We’ve collected $254,000 and we’ve spent about $10,000… We’ve incurred the cost and pain of collecting this money, but we haven’t put any of it to work,” one committee member said. “[Looking at these proposals] we’ve figured out that there’s not that many events in Wimberley that would justify HOT funds to come anywhere close to $254,000.”
With a three-year commitment to the group, the council agreed to further meet with committee members to review its funding process. The reasoning was to guide committee members in future decision-making regarding projects.
Whether that means bringing in outside help, or forming some other representative entity to replace the HOT Committee in the future remains to be seen.