Focus on lagoon and beach projects.cut cultural subsidies

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Brevard County is now considering donating tax dollars to cultural organizations, with the funds going to funds that will be used for projects supporting beach nutrition and the Indian River Lagoon.

The county board on Tuesday was due to vote on a proposal to put a one-year moratorium on the Tourism + Indian River Lagoon Grants Program, which provides $1 million a year for lagoon-related projects with a tourism component. Similar to cultural grants, they are derived from the county’s 5% tourism development tax on hotel rooms and other short-term rentals.

Under that proposal, that $1 million will be shifted to help pay for the restoration of Brevard’s south beach area damaged by Hurricanes Ian and Nicole in 2022. A move unanimously recommended by the Brevard County Tourism Development Council on Feb. 22.

But Commissioner John Tobia came to the county board meeting on Tuesday with a different recommendation. It is to continue to fully fund the Tourism + Indian River Lagoon Grant Program and instead receive money from a separate Cultural Grant Program funded by the Tourism Tax. There were 22 such grants to cultural organizations and events awarded totaling $340,000.

To do so, the county board would need to change county ordinances related to tourism tax spending to adjust what percentage of tax revenue goes to the Cultural Fund and what percentage goes to the Beaches and Lagoons Fund.

Tourism Advisory Board Recommendations:Brevard may put moratorium on lagoon tourism subsidies, so money goes to beach repairs

Tobia said he hopes to continue to provide adequate funding for both the Lagoon Grant Program and the Beach Restoration Program. He pitched his proposal after speaking separately with hotel owners Bob Bauer and Tom Hermansen, as well as Florida legislator Randy Fine, who sponsored the state law passed in 2018, and R-Melbourne Beach. I said I had an idea. For Indian River Lagoon restoration projects.

Rather than vote on any of the proposals, or any other proposals brought up during the discussion, the Commission asked the TDC to revisit the entire issue at its March 22 meeting, and the Commission’s April Decided to submit a recommendation to the county commission in time for the meeting on the 4th.

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Doug Lebo, president of the Henegger Center Performing Arts Center in downtown Melbourne, said of the cultural grant program, “It would be disappointing and shameful if the county were to end support.” Told.

However, Rebo said he wasn’t too surprised by the move, saying the county “had been trying to get out of the program for years. It definitely seems to be the direction they’re going.” increase.

Revo argues that “in a county of our size,” government support for the arts is already “disastrously underfunded.”

The Henegger Center received a $20,000 County Cultural Grant in the current budget year. Without such grants, Henegger would have to cut back on outreach for marketing and events outside of the county, Revo said.

Some other arts organizations receiving cultural grants may have had less programming due to reduced grant programs, Lebo said.

West Melbourne City Council member Andrea Young, a member of the Tourism Development Council and chair of its Cultural Commission, said the arts and culture He said he did not want the program to be curtailed.

Young said art is a key component of the Space Coast community.

However, Young added that the Tourism Development Council and its subcommittees are only advisory boards to the commissioner, so it is the prerogative of county commissions to determine the priorities for tourism development taxes.

“So they can do what they want,” Young said.

At a county board meeting on Tuesday, board vice chair Kristin Czonka also questioned prioritizing beach nutrition over improving lagoon conditions.

“I still don’t believe the beach beats the lagoon, but I don’t think so,” said Czonka. “You can’t convince me that funds should go to the beach before they go to the lagoon because the beach is doing well. Federal and state funds are also available: “Beach nutrition.

According to the latest estimates, the 2022 storm-related repair costs for South Beaches will total $22.49 million. This would require all Beach funds and reserves to be used and an additional $6.44 million to be drawn from the federal American Rescue Plan Act funds received by the county. The county commissioner on December 6 he approved the ARPA fund allocation.

County officials hope the Federal Emergency Management Agency will work with the Florida Department of Emergency Management to reimburse the county for much of the storm damage work along the south coast. can take 2-3 years.

There have been a wide range of projects approved for funding for the current 2022-23 budget year through the Tourism + Indian River Lagoon Grant Program. This includes projects dealing with seagrass restoration, improvement of lagoon clam and oyster populations, and removal of derelict boats. waterway. A county board on Tuesday unanimously approved giving nine of her grant recipients from 2022 to her 23 an extra year to complete the project.

contact Berman dberman@floridatoday.comon Twitter @bydaveberman on facebook Focus on lagoon and beach projects.cut cultural subsidies

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