After a year of no tourism tax spending, the Tooele County Tourism Advisory Board has allocated $182,753 to 16 different groups to help fund activities that bring in visitors.
The board received $559,678 in requests for tourism tax dollars from 25 groups.
After establishing criteria for evaluating requests, board members turned down some applications and trimmed back the amount granted to some groups, according to John Cluff, chairman of the Tourism Advisory Board.
“The process has been conducted with the intention of awarding tax money to organizations that will utilize the funds to increase tourism in Tooele County,” he said.
The recipient of the largest amount of tourism tax dollars granted by the advisory board in 2014 is the Tooele County Chamber of Commerce and Tourism. It will receive a $70,000 grant for three marketing campaigns to attract tourists to the county.
The chamber has plans to use the tourism tax grant to film commercials for “At Your Leisure,” an advertising campaign that is estimated to reach 910,000 viewers on television, radio, and YouTube, according to Jared Hamner, Tooele County Chamber of Commerce and Tourism executive director.
The chamber will also advertise on KUTV’s “Casey Scott Road Trippin’” and participate in a cooperative marketing program through the state Office of Tourism that will promote Tooele County as a destination for trail use, ATV riding, motorsports and other outdoor venues to five neighboring states, Hamner said.
Miller Motorsports Park received $50,000 in tourism tax funds with the caveat that they advertise Tooele County in their commercials, according to Cluff.
The board also awarded grants to several museums and cultural attractions.
The Tooele Arts Festival received $12,000; the Tooele Pioneer Museum received $10,650; Benson Gristmill received a $7,500 grant and Clark Historic Farm received $5,000. Grantsville Old Folks Sociable will get $2,000.
Tooele County Parks and Recreation was awarded $6,000 to bring outsiders in to ride the county’s trails.
Tooele County Babe Ruth Baseball, which holds tournaments that attract out of county teams, received $5,128.
A sheep breeders association that draws a national crowd to an auction at Deseret Peak Complex was awarded $5,000.
A number of other organizations that hold rodeos, barrel racing, and other events at Deseret Peak Complex were allocated enough funds to cover the costs necessary to rent Deseret Peak, Cluff said.
The group turned down a request from the county to fund advertising for Deseret Peak.
“We thought that was part of your overall budgeting to operate and maintain Deseret Peak Complex,” Cluff told the commissioners.
The board also decided not to fund fireworks shows or city park facilities.
These guidelines knocked out $54,100 of requests from Grantsville City, the Tooele County Fair, and the West Desert Firefighters.
The tourism promotion funds come from a 3.5 percent transient room tax paid by people that stay in hotels and motels in the county, and a 1 percent tax on restaurant sales.
The state law that authorizes counties to levy the tourism taxes also requires that the funds be used to establish, finance, and promote recreation, tourism, film production and conventions or for facilities for conventions, museums, sports and recreation.
A 1995 state attorney’s general opinion precludes tourism tax dollars from being used for city celebrations that are put on for the enjoyment of city residents.
The tourism board allocations are only a portion of the total tourism taxes collected by the county.
In 2014, the county budget anticipates a collection of $300,000 in transient room taxes and $455,000 in restaurant taxes for a combined total of $755,000.
In addition to the 2014 revenue, and with $650,000 of borrowed funds restored from the Deseret Peak fund, the TRT fund went into 2014 with a balance of $1.8 million in accumulated tax dollars.
Other uses for tourism tax money in the 2014 TRT fund budget included $400,000 for Country Explosion, $192,000 in special projects, $125,000 for the county fair, and $130,000 towards principal for the bond that paid for the convention center at Deseret Peak.
The 2014 budget also shows $60,000 to be paid out to the Tooele County Chamber of Commerce and Tourism for its tourism and visitor center functions, and $38,000 to be transferred to Wendover City for its share of tourism tax dollars generated in Wendover.
In past years special projects for tourism funds included advertising for the county in national magazines along with expenses for Wild Horse and Heritage Days.
Tooele County commissioners have not discussed special tourism projects for 2014, according to Tooele County Commissioner Shawn Milne.
The Tourism Advisory Board may meet later in the year to consider new applications for up to $250,000 in allocations, because no disbursements were made by the board in 2013, Milne said.
“The board tried real hard to follow the intent of tourism taxes, according to the attorney general’s opinion and a recent state auditor’s report, and use the funds strictly for activities that increase tourism,” he said.
Tourism Advisory Board members are appointed by the county commission and include Cluff, Milne, Denise McArthur, Chad Fullmer, Chris Ivester, and Vickie Griffith.