It had the feel of the TV show, “Shark Tank”, as people made their pitches for funding a series of community events in Jonesboro Wednesday. A key commission with responsibility on the funding approved the requests of nearly 20 groups to have events funded for next year.
The Jonesboro Advertising and Promotion Commission met Wednesday to review the commission’s 2016 budget and hear about funding requests. The city of Jonesboro has a sales tax set aside for advertising and promotion projects in the city. The tax was approved in 1986 due to a state law allowing city councils to collect up to 3% on the renting of hotel rooms.
The Jonesboro revenue comes from the 3% hotel room tax in Jonesboro and was originally set up to help fund the Foundation of the Arts. The group, based in Jonesboro, hosts theater and arts programs in Jonesboro for children and adults.
Since then, the tax proceeds have helped to fund other local sports programs, quality of life projects, concerts and tourism events like the NEA Sports Show and the Health and Fitness Expo by St. Bernards Healthcare. Commission Chairman Thom Beasley said he expects the tax to bring in $750,000 and $800,000 in revenues next year.
As of October 2015, the tax has brought in $530,067.62 while having $508,992.63 in expenses, chamber official Cari White told commissioners. Beasley said officials expect another $100,000 in funding for the remainder of this year from the tax.
The city has seen an increase in revenues due to an increased number of baseball tournaments in the past couple of years. Many of the teams in the tournaments come from out of town, staying at the city’s hotels, Beasley said. The city hosted the Cal Ripken 10 and under national tournament earlier this year, with teams and families from 10 states visiting Jonesboro. City officials have estimated that the tournament alone would bring in close to $2 million in economic impact.
Beasley said the commission has set aside about $400,000 in the past year or more to help fund the events. As for the requests this year, Beasley said the commission needed to be judicious with not all groups getting exactly what they want.
Beasley said the A&P tax also funds projects throughout the year, with at least two major convention center projects possibly in the offing for Jonesboro. An Illinois-based company, Keller Management and a Missouri-based company, O’Reilly Hotel Management, have competing projects in Jonesboro. Keller is wanting to build a convention center at the former Arkansas Services Center site on US 63, while O’Reilly is wanting to build a convention center at the former track and field complex at ASU.
Beasley said both projects will help bring people to Jonesboro and increase the coffers of the hotel/motel tax.
The following projects were funded for 2016.
• Foundation of the Arts – $54,900
• Riding on the Ridge – $35,000
• Jonesboro Rotary Club for the NEA Sportshow – $30,000
• St. Bernards Healthcare for the Health and Fitness Expo – $25,000
• Duck Classic – $16,545. The event, held in December each year, helps to fund projects managed by the NEA Baptist Charitable Foundation.
• University Heights Lions Club for their annual car show – $15,000. The show helps to fund club projects, including buying eyeglasses for people in need.
• City Youth Ministries – $11,000
• Jonesboro Hispanic Celebration – $9,000
• Delta Symphony Orchestra – $9,000
• Jonesboro Bowling Association for hosting the Jonesboro Open bowling tournament (which will air on ESPN 2) – $8,500
• Martin Luther King Jr. Commission of Jonesboro for the Martin Luther King Jr. Parade – $6,300
• WHEDL (Power Lifting Competition) – $5,000
• The Learning Center of Northeast Arkansas to host Dog Fest – $5,000. The group works with developmentally disabled adults and children in Jonesboro and Northeast Arkansas.
• Crowley’s Ridge Cruisers (for hosting area car shows) – $5,000
• The Role of Music, a music program for children and adults with special needs – $2,500
• Disk Side of Heaven (for a disk golf regional tournament) – $1,500
The commission also voted Wednesday to table discussing funding for the St. Jude Xtravaganza until legal advice is received. The event, held on Super Bowl Sunday, has raised $4 million for the Memphis-based children’s hospital. While commission members didn’t object to helping the hospital, there was some question as to whether or not a local sales tax, under state law, could be used to help an out of state hospital.
The request is expected to be revisited at the commission’s January meeting.