Changes Coming to Village Tourism Grant Process

By Jeremy Coumbes on August 8, 2023 at 10:38am

Changes are coming to how the Village of South Jacksonville approves and distributes tourism grant funding going forward.

During the August regular meeting of the Board of Trustees Thursday night, the board had three tourism grant applications to consider on the agenda. Prior to discussion on the funding requests, Village President Dick Samples announced that the village is going to require more information in grant requests going forward and in some cases require receipts before any funds are disbursed.

Samples says the goal is to give more transparency on where the funds are going. “Basically we’re just trying to be more responsible to everybody involved in that process. In the past, we have simply cut a check and said here you go, and that deal is gone.

We want to know what that money is being spent on. Because when they come back the next year they don’t have any records of what it was spent on. So this way, we’ll have pretty good knowledge of what this money is being spent on.”

Samples said during the meeting that better detail on the tourism grants was mentioned during the recent audit. He said he doesn’t believe it would be a serious issue in the current audit, but he knows it could be sooner or later.

Village Treasurer and Acting Village Clerk, Mindy Olson says the changes are something that has been in discussion for some time. “It’s something that the Village President and the Trustees have been looking at and it’s kind of an accountability for where the money is going. It’s due diligence for the citizens of the Village that we can say this is where the tourism money is spent.

Potentially there will be more information asked for in the application and potential of more of a reimbursement type program as opposed to just give you money and you go do with it what you want.”

The tourism account is funded by the hotel/motel tax and by ordinance the funds are to be geared toward things that generate tourism tax revenue for the village, commonly referred to as “putting heads in beds”.

Tourism grants have been given annually to entities such as the Jacksonville Speedway, Lake Jacksonville Boat Races, Downtown Concert Series with many others.

One up for consideration by the board Thursday was a $20,000 request by Sarah Shellhammer, General Manager of WJVO/WJIL in Jacksonville as seed money for a Festival of Holiday Lights drive-through display she hopes to bring to the Morgan County Fairgrounds this year.

Previously the City of Jacksonville granted a request for $20,000 toward the event. Shellhammer says it will take $75,000 to get the event up and going the first year with the intent it is self-supporting each year thereafter.

After discussion, the $20,000 grant was denied due to the failure of any Trustee to make a motion on the request. A motion by Trustee Tom Jordan to approve a $10,000 grant failed by a vote of 3 to 2. A motion by Trustee Steve Retzer and seconded by Paula Stewart for a $5,000 grant was then unanimously approved by the board.

Another that fell short was a $25,000 request by the Prairieland Heritage Museum Fall Festival and Steam Show, which was referred to during the meeting as the premiere event they sponsor and the only one that takes place in the village. After discussion, the museum was approved for a $20,000 grant.

The Jacksonville Rotary Oktoberfest application for a $5,000 grant was unanimously approved by the board.