The issue recently took center stage when a boost in funding for the chamber’s visitor center in Cashiers was added to a draft of the TDA’s budget. However, TDA Chairman Clifford Meads opposed the increase in funding and had it removed.
The budget subsequently was attached to Jackson County’s budget and was posted for a public hearing before the full TDA had a chance to discuss it. Meads claims to have the support of the board members in opposing the $20,000 increase to the visitor center allocation, but Ken Fernandez, president of the board of directors for the Cashiers Chamber, believes the money is long overdue to the visitor center.
“Given the significant volume of occupancy taxes generated by the Cashiers area, this Chamber request is simply for a long overdue, legitimate reinvestment of those dollars into visitor center operations to promote successful tourism development,” Fernandez wrote in an email calling on members of the public to come to a meeting at 1 p.m. June 26 at the Cashiers library to support the chamber.
The TDA operates with revenue generated from a lodging tax. Much of the tax is generated from overnight stays in Cashiers; however, those funds are distributed for promotional projects for the entire county.
Fernandez contends that the proposed increase would put the Cashiers visitor center on par with the visitor center for the Jackson County Chamber of Commerce in Sylva. He also fears that Meads is set on cutting back on visitor center operations in the county.
However, Meads contends that the increase to a small visitor center operation is gobbling up money that could be used in the coming year for promoting the entire county as a tourism spot and attracting more visitors. Although Cashiers Area Chamber of Commerce officials are trying to keep the issue open for discussion, Meads expects the rest of the budget process to run smoothly. He even took a recent board vote on the issue as a sign that he had support for reversing the increase.
But Meads said he is unsure if it will become an issue again as the authority moves to finalize its budget in the wake of the public hearing.
“I can’t speak for the board,” Meads said. “But we already voted on it once.”