Shelby Del Vecchio
The Grand Bohemian Hotel at the corner of Meeting and Wentworth streets
With Charleston City Council set to vote on a proposed ordinance that would establish new regulations for hotels, there’s no better time to look at how these properties factor into the city’s tax revenue — specifically, the municipal accommodations fee.
Under this special tax, 2 percent of all revenue generated by “transient lodging” (i.e. hotels) goes to the city. Local and state laws limit how this money can be spent, meaning that funds can only be used for tourism-related capital projects and operating costs. So, while this money could help build a new civic center, it’s not going to pay for any schools. For 2016, the city has budgeted for a little more than $6.4 million to be generated from this tax, but how does this money get spread around the city?
Well, $2.7 million is currently budgeted to support tourism-related salaries, most of which include paying police officers to patrol the city’s main tourism areas, with another $472,800 going toward parking enforcement officers in the historic district. So that accounts for roughly half, which means it’s time to see what big projects are being supported with accommodations fees.
Past projects that have received funding from this tax include the new Gaillard Center, restorations to the Dock Street Theatre, and the S.C. Aquarium. And with roughly $3.2 million budgeted for capital expenditures in 2016, almost all of that money is going to one thing — the restoration of the Low Battery.
Extending for approximately a mile along the north bank of the Ashley River, the Low Battery seawall is the focus of an ongoing restoration process to shore up the local landmark. In 2004, a study contracted by the city to assess the condition of the Low Battery found the structure to be in need of significant amounts of preventive and corrective maintenance to extend its “service life span to its full potential” and estimated total design and construction costs to be around $5.5 million.
According to the 2016 city budget, the renovation of the Low Battery along Murray Boulevard leading to the Coast Guard Station “will be done in sections to minimize impact to the neighborhood ... The construction will take approximately 10 years and is expected to begin in late 2016.”