Come kick it in Buda: Legislation may send hotel tax dollars to sports facilities

Buda is working with Texas representatives to allow funds from the hotel occupancy tax (HOT) to be used toward improving sports-related facilities and venues.

The over-arching goals of House Bill 2354, filed Feb. 23 are to incentivize tourism and increase the number of people spending time in Buda hotels. Chance Sparks, assistant city manager, calls this putting “heads in beds.”

Sparks said Buda earned $637,656.82 from the hotel occupancy tax in the 2015-16 fiscal year, up about $14,000 from its total during the 2014-15 fiscal year.

The money from the tax, Sparks said, can’t be used towards a sporting facility because the law limits the use of these funds.

After canvassing the local hotels for information, Sparks said the city discovered youth sporting tournaments correlate with increased spending in the tourism industry. Parents and kids need places to sleep for these tournaments, meaning there are more heads in Buda hotel beds.

“When you get families coming in for soccer tournaments or lacrosse, there’re people that have to eat, buy gas and shop while they are in town,” said Terry Franks, chief of staff for Texas Rep. Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs). “It’s an economic development tool, basically.”

The discussion began in Fall 2016 starting with city council. Officials referenced a similar bill passed in Bryan-College Station, which allowed funds from the hotel occupancy tax rate to be used in renovating Kyle Field.

“Our bill was functionally identical to it,” Sparks said. “If you see something that worked for someone else, there’s no good sense in re-inventing the wheel.”

Months later, House Bill 2354 was filed to committee, with Isaac sponsoring the bill. If passed, city officials will be allowed to use the excess money from the tax toward its sporting facilities, starting Sept. 1, 2017.

Sparks said the most likely target for the money is the Buda Sportsplex, a 52-acre park featuring four baseball fields, four recreational fields, a trail system, a large playground and other on-site facilities. Other sporting venues in the area could receive a cash infusion from the tax, as well.

“It just needs some improvements to be a tournament-caliber facility,” Sparks said. “That would be our most likely target. It can be used for a variety of different sporting events.”

Until then, city officials can only wait and see. Sparks, for one, likes the chances of the bill passing.

“A similar bill passed in 2015, which gives us cause for optimism,” Sparks said.

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