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HOT funding draws criticism

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City Council trimmed the requested promotional funding for four tourist activities in half but provided full promotional funding for four other tourist events last week, triggering a prediction that one cutback will weaken a prized tourist attraction in Bandera.

That attraction is the Cowboys on Main, an entity that provides funds for the Bandera Cattle Company Gunfighter performances, a cowboy chuckwagon exhibit, appearances by a massive, longhorn steer that is regularly included in photos visitors take in Bandera and other cowboy-related activities.

The Bandera Business Association, as the sponsoring agency of the Cowboys on Main, had sought $10,000 in Hotel Occupancy Tax, or HOT, funds from council to support the different entities in the cowboys organization and received $5,000.

Association President Cindy Beckham, who appealed to council for HOT funds for that organization and for the Bandera Riverfest, said unless the Bandera Economic Development Corp. covers the $5,000 that council did not fund, the BBA will have to cut back more on what the Cowboys on Main provides in Bandera.

Gunfighters won’t be employed as often as they have in the past or some of the other attractions won’t be used as often because the budget won’t allow it, Beckham said about the ramification of council’s Thursday, Nov. 21 vote if the EDC cannot provide the association with $10,000 in sales tax assistance.

She is doubtful the EDC will be able to support that amount.

“This is what the visitors to Bandera say they want to see,” said Beckham. “They are always asking ‘Where are the gunfighters, where are the gunfighters?’ We need to figure this out.”

Council in its

Thursday vote did approve the full $3,000 HOT request sought for River-fest, and it approved two funding requests from the Bandera ProRodeo Association, one for $3,000 to keep a Women’s Ranch Rodeo in Bandera and another for $7,000 to support the ProRodeo Association’s string of professional rodeos over the Memorial Day weekend.

The council also fully backed the Bandera Wranglers request for $4,565 in promotional assistance for its fundraiser centering on wild hog chases. Last year, which was the wranglers’ first year at the helm, the fundraiser was called the Bacon Bash. It’s changing its name this year to the Bandera Ham Rodeo.

But council also voted to support only half of what James McGroarty had sought for each of three activities planned in conjunction with his 11th Street Cowboy Bar, the Cowboy Mardi Gras Celebration, a Bandera Stompede Celebration over Memorial Day and a country music concert over the Labor Day weekend.

Those events received $23,250 for promotional assistance from council next year rather than the $46,500 sought.

McGroarty, in requesting the assistance, said the activities really need the financial support. The Mardi Gras celebration is facing increased competition from Mardi Gras activities in other towns, and local tourism during Labor Day and Memorial Day has slipped, the bar owner said.

More advertising expenditures should correct that, McGroarty said.

Council members unanimously agreed to the cutbacks, however.

They acknowledged that all of the projects seeking HOT assistance were worthy projects but said budget constraints prevented them from fully funding everything.

Several said the cutbacks would allow them to keep some HOT revenues in reserve to consider implementing different promotional activities, like producing a promotional video on Bandera.

Council authorized the expenditure of $45,815 in HOT revenue last week. That leaves about $30,000 worth of HOT funds on the table for additional uses, officials said.

Councilman Jerry Russe, who was sworn into office earlier Thursday with two councilwomen who won reelection on Nov. 5, Lynn Palmer and Rebeca Gibson, said the HOT allocation was a hard one for him to grapple with as a first-time council member.

Still, Russe said Thursday’s decision generally supports activities that will enhance Bandera’s brand. He hopes those organizations who had their requests cut can find promotional funds from other sources.