Chattanooga Parks and Recreation Administrator Larry Zehnder today said after his budget presentation to the Hamilton County Commission that the county should consider redirecting money it receives from hotel-motel taxes to fund the Tennessee Riverpark.
Zehnder spoke after talking about the riverpark's budget with the county, which receives funding from both the city and the county. The riverpark request is $400,000 less than last year, according to county budget documents. The county gives more than $4 million in hotel-motel tax funds to the Chattanooga Area Convention and Visitors Bureau each year to promote tourism.
Chattanooga uses its hotel-motel revenue to pay off debt on the 21st Century Waterfront and to repair and maintain the attraction.
Mayor Jim Coppinger has suggested the county could redirect money to promote tourism outside of Chattanooga, but said it will not do that. Coppinger's comments have come while he has discussed the impending end of the sales tax agreement with the city of Chattanooga, which will cause the county to lose $10.5 million in revenue used to fund agencies with the city, such as the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department.
"The hotel-motel tax would seem to be appropriate," for the riverpark, Zehnder said.
He was answering questions about whether the budget presentation was more difficult this year given the falling out the city and the county have had over the sales tax agreement.
"The commission and council are asking a lot more questions this year because of the agreement, to make sure each side is being dealt with fairly," Zehnder said.
Mike Dunne, spokesman for Mayor Coppinger, said the Convention and Visitor's Bureau controls how the money is spent, adding, "We appreciate Larry helping us with our budget."
For complete details, see tomorrow's Chattanooga Times Free Press.