Richland Co Vicechair: H-tax proposal is a "train wreck" - - Columbia, South Carolina |

Richland Co Vicechair: H-tax proposal is a "train wreck"

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Richland County Council members are meeting to discuss changing how the county spends money collected through its hospitality tax.

Last month, six members of the council backed an 11-page proposal that would spend more of that money in rural parts of the county.

The changes would cut $52,000 in funding to the Columbia Museum of Art. That's money museum director Karin Brosius says they've received the last 11 years.

"The art museum 11 years ago was a quiet place," said Brosius. "We did not have the stability of funding that we have from the county. Their support has made an enormous difference in the ability to support 100,000 children along in the last five years -- 130,000 people a year."

Brosius says her statistics show the county is getting a good return on spending the money with the museum because half the people who visit the exhibits are from out of town.

But County Council Chairman Kelvin Washington says he feels Richland County should rethink where the money goes. He is backing the plan to take money from the museums and spend it instead in more rural parts of the county.

Washington says the county collects $5.4 million a year from the H-tax. Right now, a quarter of that goes directly to the museums and Historic Foundation.

"Right now, there is a rule that council developed, that 75 percent of the money will be spent in the unincorporated areas of the county, and 25 percent in the incorporated areas. Those three ordinance agencies were never calculated in that 25 percent," said Washington.

If the proposal passes, that would change, grouping the art museum, EdVenture, and Historic Foundation with the other metro beneficiaries of the county's H-tax money.

The proposal also includes spending money on tourism projects in rural parts of the county, but specifics on those projects aren't listed.

However there is a $420,000 study in the plan that would be paid with H-tax dollars.

We found an opinion issued by state Attorney General Alan Wilson for an unrelated case. However, that opinion still frowns on spending H-tax money on feasibility studies.

"We've spent moneys for feasibility studies before," said Washington. "Matter of fact, for the sports complex that we tried to do before."

County Council Vice Chairman Greg Pearce is upset about the way the 11-page proposal came about.

"It's a hospitality tax train wreck," said Pearce.

Washington argues the museum, EdVenture, and Historic Columbia get money from both the county and the city. He says the city has more G-tax money to spend while the county has to look out for a larger area.

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