St. Johns Tourism Board Considers Grant Funding

St. Johns Tourism Board Considers Expanded Grant Funding

Organizations and local governments looking at funding options for programs and capital projects could have a new source in the St. Johns County Tourist Development Council.

At a meeting earlier this month, TDC members discussed recommendations from the funding Request Consideration Working Group, the advisory board created in March to look at expanding the scope of tourist development tax grants.

The TDC recommends to county commissioners funding requests for “facilities, programs or contracts which are primarily for the purpose of and related to the development, advancement, furtherance, improvement or promotion of tourism” in St. Johns County, according to the county website.

Tourism and Cultural Development Director Tera Meeks said the working group met and made two recommendations for new annual funding programs that are not covered under the TDC’s existing policy guidelines.

“Additionally in our last meeting there was some requests for staff to reach out to other counties and see what other counties are doing,” Meeks said.

Meeks reviewed responses form Alachua, Duval, Hillsborough, Manatee and Polk counties on different TDC funding programs across the state, noting that some are less broad than the current program in St. Johns County and offer a variety of award programs for events only.

Meeks said the county currently has two grant programs – for arts and culture heritage, events and continuous programs and for sports tourism – but more could be considered.

“Those two programs have been in place for some time,” she said. “Maybe now is the time as we continue to grow there is some due diligence that should be done.”

The working group recommendations called for consideration of new or additional annual funding that could be used for potential programs including art in public places and/or capital improvements and the establishment of a scoring matrix to evaluate unsolicited requests for TDC funding with a working group created to evaluate those requests before they are heard by the tourism board.

“The recommendation is really consideration of developing new annual programs and it wouldn’t necessarily be limited to or include art in public places and capital improvements,” Meeks said. “It may be there are some other suggestions for some other types of programs.”

TDC members discussed the recommendations and seemed to be interested in the arts in public places program, as well as an education in public places idea.

“I think it is a good path forward,” said TDC member Nancy Sikes-Kline, who also serves as mayor of St. Augustine. “I like this proposal because it moves more in the direction of product development.”

TDC members unanimously approved a motion accepting the recommendations and the working group will meet before the tourism board’s next meeting to address comments and suggestions members made.