County officials are tightening the rules for awarding grants for tourism-drawing events, including sports and major events such as triathlons, softball tournaments, the local renaissance fair. The County Commission voted unanimously Tuesday that all groups nominated by the Tourism Development Council for sports and major event grants would need to submit more detailed, line-item budget documentation if their grants were to be approved.
Eight sports events — including the junior college national women’s golf championships ― have been recommended for Brevard County tourism sports grants. Additionally, three other events are in line for tourism major events grants, which can go to festivals and other events that attract at least 25,000 people to the Space Coast.
Those events may not be funded in the future unless County Commissioners feel comfortable that the money is not being spent unnecessarily on profitable events that don’t need the funds.
The grants are funded by the county’s 5% tourist development tax on hotel rooms, vacation rentals and other short-term rentals.
More:Behind the scenes: ULA prepping Vulcan rocket for inaugural launch on Christmas Eve
More:How does Brevard Public Schools’ guardian program compare to other Florida districts?
Commissioner John Tobia, who regularly votes in opposition to any public funding of private events, said there was a dearth of evidence that the grants were needed. He pressured organizers to show that the tourism grants were justified based on their actual profits, which were not always readily accessible in the groups’ submission documents.
He and other commissioners such as District 1’s Rita Pritchett suggested that organizers of those events come back to the Commission with further evidence that the grants were needed. Pritchett said it may be better to for the county to spend money on advertising for those events rather than paying organizers directly.
“You’re allowed to make money. It’s all right if you’re putting the heads in beds,” Pritchett said. “But they’ve got to get better data to us.”
Mitch Varnes, who organizes the Space Coast Triathlon, said in a letter submitted to the Commission that the event and others like it meet the threshold of proof for funding in terms of hotel stays generated by the events. Contracts with vendors and other expenses, he said, are proprietary and have never been needed in the past. “I’ve personally never heard of such a request. It’s always been my understanding that tourism grants are based on… out-of-town economic impact,” Varnes wrote in the letter. “These are standards that I’ve always met.”
“I believe profits and losses should have little bearing on tourism grants,” he continued.
The total recommended sports grants total $102,700.
Other events such as the Brevard Renaissance Fair at Wickham Park in Melbourne and the Space Coast State Fair at Space Coast Daily Park in Viera each were recommended for a grant of $25,000, based on the events attracting 25,000 to 49,999 attendees, with at least 25% of them coming from outside Brevard.
The Thunder on Cocoa Beach powerboat races was recommended for a grant of $50,000, based on the event attracting 50,000 to 99,999 attendees, with at least 25% of them coming from outside Brevard. All three events were tabled for approval until organizers could bring back detailed budgetary documents to be considered at a later date.