Potential partners 

Published 7:57 pm Thursday, February 15, 2018

Polk to send TDA agreement to Saluda and Tryon 

COLUMBUS — The City of Saluda and Town of Tryon will have decisions to make soon on whether or not they want to join a county-wide tourism development authority, as Polk County commissioners have sent a draft inter-local agreement to them.  

County commissioners met earlier this month, and agreed to send the agreement to the towns, drafted by county attorney Jana Berg.  

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Saluda and Tryon have agreed to pursue entering a countywide TDA with Polk, but leaders said they will not make a final decision until the inter-local agreement is negotiated.  

Columbus has indicated it does not wish to join the county TDA.  

Polk County decided last year it wanted to pursue a TDA to be approved by the state, which will allow the county to collect 6 percent occupancy tax throughout the new district, which could include Saluda and Tryon. Currently, the county collects 3 percent of occupancy tax, both in the county and in its three towns; the towns collect 3 percent.  

If Saluda and Tryon decide to join, the county will place 83.33 percent of all revenue collected from within the boundaries of each participating municipality in a special travel and tourism development grant fund for each town.  

“All funds accrued within a participating municipality’s grant fund shall be used to fund grant applications from the participating municipality,” states the draft agreement. “Grant funds shall be available for those projects in the participating municipality has determined will promote travel and tourism and for tourism-related expenditures, as allowed. Funding for municipal grant applications shall not be unreasonably withheld provided they have been shown to be utilized for permissible purposes, in allowable amounts, and there are sufficient funds available in the participating municipality’s grant fund.” 

If Saluda and Tryon join the new TDA, the municipalities will receive more in occupancy tax revenue but will not collect the tax.  

The draft inter-local agreement includes bylaws, setting up the new TDA. The bylaws include that the office of the TDA shall be located at 20 E. Mills St., the current county tourism office and the authority will consist of six members.  

The Polk County Board of Commissioners will appoint three members, who are registered to vote in Polk County. The Tryon Board of Commissioners will appoint one member, who is registered to vote in Polk County and the Saluda Board of Commissioners will appoint one member, who is registered to vote in the county.  

The last position will be one member who is the executive director of the TDA who will be an ex officio, non-voting member, according to the draft bylaws.  

Of the members of the TDA, at least 1/3 shall be individuals who are affiliated with business that collect the tax in the county, and at least ½ shall be individuals who are currently active in the promotion of travel and tourism in the county.  

During the county’s discussion last week, commissioner Ray Gasperson asked if Columbus decided to join in a few years would the county have to go back to state legislation for approval. Berg answered yes.  

The county will have to petition the state to change how it collects occupancy tax in order to get 6 percent from hotels, motels, B&Bs and vacation rentals. Commissioners plan to send the request to the state for the spring legislation session.  

The county will approve the inter-local agreement after hearing back from Saluda and Tryon. Saluda leaders met Monday, and did not discuss the agreement. Tryon will meet Tuesday, Feb. 20.