ALBANY, Ga. — The Albany City Commission wants additional information on the relationship between the Albany Convention and Visitors Bureau and the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce following the city attorney’s determination that roughly $86,000 going toward the salary of three chamber officials may run afoul of state law.
Currently, the city of Albany gives half of the revenues collected through Albany’s hotel-motel tax to the CVB, whose job is to promote tourism in Albany and Dougherty County.
Part of the $750,000 the CVB gets each year goes to partially fund the salaries of the chamber’s communications director, its controller and its president and CEO, who also serves as the president of the CVB.
At a meeting Tuesday, City Attorney Nathan Davis said that policy doesn’t adhere to the language in the state law that guides how hotel/motel tax dollars can be spent.
“From what I saw, the general services such as the supervision and accounting services, to me don’t equate to promoting tourism, as required by the hotel-motel tax law,” Davis said. “Someone like (CVB Manager Rashelle) Beasley, who spends 100 percent of her time working to advance tourism, would be covered, sure, but those three others are physically at another location. There’s no documentation to support their contention that 40 percent of their time is used promoting tourism in the city.”
Chamber President Chris Hardy, who receives 40 percent of his salary from the hotel/motel tax, said that he and the chamber do promote tourism.
“The Albany Area Chamber of Commerce and the Albany Convention and Visitors Bureau are 100 percent committed to promoting tourism in Albany,” Hardy said. “The city of Albany receives nearly a 3,000 percent return on their tourism investment dollars as the most recent numbers show a $198 million economic impact from an estimated $750,000 annual investment. One hundred percent of those funds are either directly or indirectly used to promote tourism for Albany.
“The direct means are marketing, advertising etc. The indirect means are salaries and wages for staff, utilities, maintenance of the Visitors Center.”
Under Georgia law, cities that levy a hotel/motel tax can choose to contract with an organization like a chamber of commerce, can fund a CVB directly if it is its own stand-alone organization or can absorb the CVB into the city.
The city has requested a detailed report from the CVB and chamber justifying the $86,000 in expenses.
Beasley said Wednesday that it’s the CVB’s interpretation of the law that the expenses are justified because the positions mentioned are jobs that would have to be directly funded by the CVB regardless of whether the chamber managed the services or not.
“If we were our own organization, we’d still have to have an accountant, we’d still need someone to design our graphics and promotional material, and we’d have to have leadership,” Beasley said. “They each contribute to the mission of the CVB, which is promoting tourism.”
Davis said he doesn’t dispute that some of the roles may be necessary for CVB operations, but that under the law, the CVB has to fund them using a seperate revenue source.
“Sure, you have to have supervision, and sure, you have to properly account for the money, but you have to pay for it with other moneys,” Davis said.