In a sparsely attended, abnormally early meeting Nov. 21, the Gonzales City Council unanimously voted to increase its hotel occupancy tax (H.O.T.) funding to the Visitors Information Center. The city will reimburse the Gonzales Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture—the group that hosts and operates the Visitors Information Center—a total of $35,000 for fiscal year 2019-20.
The Visitors Information Center is a community resource which provides information, tours and other services to visitors to Gonzales. The Visitors Information Center is open seven days a week and is located at 414 Saint Lawrence St.
“Glad we can take care of that and assist the chamber with their reimbursements,” Gonzales Mayor Connie Kacir said after the vote.
The new H.O.T. fund amount is an increase over the $20,000 the city provided the Visitors Information Center for the 2018-19 budget year. The $35,000 will be dispersed quarterly in the amount of $8,750 for an 11-month period beginning Dec. 1, 2019 and ending Sept. 1, 2020. Though the contract was finalized Nov. 21, the agreement is effectively dated Oct. 1, 2019. Council will have the opportunity to review the contract each year prior to budget adoption.
Prior to the vote, District 3 Councilman Bobby O’Neal sought to clarify if the chamber had presented a proposed H.O.T. fund use budget to council. Kacir said the chamber provided its budget during the city’s budget workshop and it was reviewed again when the city’s budget was adopted. Tourism Director Ashley Simper also added the budget was also vetted by the Gonzales Convention and Visitors Bureau (GCVB) representatives and they found to all be “in alignment and satisfactory with statutory guidelines” for H.O.T. fund requests.
The chamber’s funding request officially began Sept. 5 with a public comment at a council meeting. Chamber Executive Director Daisy Scheske Freeman initially requested the city increase its assistance to $41,335.51. That figure would’ve raised the city’s contribution from 15% in fiscal year 2018-19 to 33% in the current year.
After negotiations with the GCVB advisory board, the chamber settled on a total of $35,000. The GCVB board recommended the increase at its Sept. 19 meeting.
The proposal reappeared on a GCVB agenda on Oct. 31 and following further negotiating, a revised contract was agreed upon. After further legal clarification on Nov. 14, the contract was at last brought before council on Nov. 21 and approved.
Prior obligations kept Freeman from attending the Nov. 21 meeting but when asked for comment she said, “we are happy to continue to work with the city on promoting tourism in Gonzales.”