Amelia Layton, head staff of the Olympia Lodging Tax Advisory Committee (LTAC), presented the updated LTAC policy to make the program accessible and equitable and provide an easier process for applicants for funding opportunities.
At Thursday's LTAC meeting, Olympia Economic Development Director Mike Reid opened the presentation by introducing Layton as the hired head staff for LTAC. She also works for the city's Cultural Access Program.
Layton stated that the policy updates stem from consultations with the Social Justice and Equity Commission and the incorporation of staff expertise in grant administration, including application procedures, review processes, and reporting guidelines. She said the collaboration with the commission provided insights and utilized the climate and equity framework to identify gaps and areas for improvement in the program.
The updates also underwent review from the Finance Committee and the Community Livability and Public Safety Committee.
"The changes are designed to encourage broader participation in LTAC funding opportunity and provide advisory board members with a clearer understanding of applicants' organizations and proposed programs," Layton said.
Multi-year funding. The committee can now offer support programs or organizations that hold recurring events. This change revised the 2007 rule made by the city council, which prohibited multi-year contracts.
From a budget perspective, Reid commented that a yearly contract seems overwhelming to go through the application process annually.
Support for for-profit businesses. Layton said the policy now opens the door for for-profit businesses to apply for funding for marketing events and activities. Reid said the goal is to support businesses that have a positive economic impact on the city.
Citing the RCW LTAC, Reid noted that it does not exclude providing funding in this scenario. They plan to evaluate such cases individually, adhering to the regulations outlined in the RCW governing the use of LTAC funds.
Layton also mentioned updating the application process by providing clearer guidelines and establishing reserves.
LTAC, according to Reid, has set a target of maintaining a maximum of 25% of the previous year's awarded funds in reserve, which amounts to $120,000.
In addition, the equity commission has recommended allocating 10% of the estimated total budget for emerging events. This allocation aims to encourage the participation of various organizations in LTAC funding opportunities.
Reid said the city's Finance Department typically allocates around $500,000 for anticipated new revenue throughout the year. This budget would dedicate approximately $50,000 to new and emerging events.
Reid added that there are no specific criteria for identifying "new events" yet. He asked the committee to lay out the requirements collectively.
The Economic director emphasized that while it is important to preserve the established events, funding new programs allows the city to explore new approaches to tourism offerings.
In addition, Layton's dual role overseeing both Cultural Access and Lodging Tax allows Olympia to explore opportunities for cultural access programs related to arts, culture, science, and heritage for tourism marketing.
"It is an exciting prospect because many of these organizations might not be aware of this opportunity. We anticipate the possibility of attracting new participants to our program, expanding the diversity of events and experiences available to our visitors," Layton said.
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