Wake's hotel-meals tax renders millions for good projects

March 13, 2014 

It is a good dilemma to have: how to spend $6 million from the “occupancy and prepared food and beverage taxes,” otherwise called the hotel-meals tax.

Raleigh and Wake County share the proceeds, about $1 million a year each. Raleigh took extra funds from the tax from 2010 through 2013 to pay for the Raleigh Convention Center. But under an agreement, the county gets $2 for every $1 extra Raleigh takes from the tax proceeds. Over three years, that’s added up to $6 million for the county and therein lies the happy problem. Four finalists are competing for the money

No project can get more than 35 percent of its funding from the county. The maximum that any project can receive is $3 million. And the money can be spent only on capital expenses, not operating costs.

Up for consideration are a “Naismith Legacy Park,” a basketball camp in Knightdale that would have field houses and rooms for overnight campers. Private money would pay the bulk of the $10.1 million cost.

Then there’s the Wake County Competition Center for Morrisville, funded primarily by the Ammons Building Corp. It would feature two NHL-size hockey rinks and volleyball and other facilities. The total cost is $13.99 million.

The Gregg Museum of Art & Design, in the old N.C. State’s chancellor’s home on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh, wants money for expansion, which will run $9.1 million.

And in Holly Springs, the North Main Athletic Campus would have a baseball stadium, soccer fields and tennis courts. Its cost would be $8.28 million.

Commissioners need to be guided by which projects will benefit the most people. And the projects need to be spread around the county, particularly to areas short on facilities. Those proposals that might have the least chance of raising adequate private money also should get priority.

Tough calls are ahead. But how fortunate that commissioners have the chance to make them.

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