Franklin's Tourism Development Authority (TDA) held its monthly meeting on Tuesday night at Town Hall. Members had a light agenda to consider and promptly got to work, but before diving in they reviewed the financial report which showed that the TDA acquired $9,262.61 in room occupancy taxes for the month of September.
“If you look at July, August and September, all three months are down from previous years,” member Summer Woodard said. “We almost revert back to worse than 2009, 2010. I don't really know what the difference is between what is going on this year and this time last year, but I think it's definitely something the board should take under consideration.”
The board looked at the Main Street Program's request for $2,000 that would help offset the costs of the Winter Wonderland event that will take place during the last weekend of November and Dec. 7 and 13 in downtown Franklin. This year's request comes in $1,500 less than last year's when they were granted $3,500 from the TDA.
“I'm just wondering how many tourists this event actually brings into Franklin,” said board member Josh Drake. “It seems like something that is more for locals and the people that do visit are probably staying with family members during the holidays.”
Woodard pointed to the Cookies with Santa event that will take place on Nov. 30 at Town Hall. Children submit letters to Santa and are served cookies.
“Nine out of the 10 letters that are given are addressed from out of town,” she said. “I think that shows that people do come here for the event.”
Board member Matt Bateman also pointed to prior concerns about the event and its attraction of visitors to the area.
“In the past, I've wondered the same thing. Are they staying with family or in the motels? It's a heads-in-beds sort of thing,” he said. “But with that being said, I also like the fact that they are moving towards self-sustaining themselves. It's the right direction. We said that that was what we wanted from the event organizers.”
Member Mike Gruberman made a motion to approve the $2,000 with member Vickie Springer seconding. The motion passed unanimously.
The board also voted to change its current reserve fund from $100,000 to $50,000. The amount has been the topic of discussion for a couple of months now. Back in September the board held discussions on the matter and agreed that the amount did need to be changed. A reserve can only be used if the Town Board of Aldermen allows the TDA to do so and it is typically only used for an emergency situation.
The issue at hand was the amount that it would be changed to. Drake urged the board to consider a percentage. At September's meeting he had recommended 25 percent of the budget.
“From an accounting standpoint, it may not be as easy, but at the beginning of each year they can take the numbers and say ok, this is what you've got and here is what your reserve should be,” Drake said.
Town Manager Warren Cabe was in attendance at last month's meeting and showed his support for having a physical number of at least $50,000. Town Attorney John Henning Jr. reminded the board of this.
“I think that it's important that we keep in mind that this request is coming down from the town's administration,” said Henning.
Drake conceded that he preferred $50,000 over $100,000 and motioned that the bylaws be changed to cap the amount of the reserve at $50,000. Gruberman seconded and the rest of the board agreed unanimously.
The next TDA meeting will take place on Monday, Dec. 9, at 5:30 p.m. in the Town Hall Board Room.