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Commission discusses tourism budget

The Troup County Board of Commissioners seems to have worked its first budget to send to Visit LaGrange.

Visit LaGrange will handle the county’s tourism dollars generated by the hotel/motel tax. The county ended its contract with the LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce in July, after the city of LaGrange ended a similar contract to form its own 501c6.

In the past, all of the tourism dollars from Troup County, LaGrange, West Point and Hogansville were in one pot, and the chamber of commerce spent the collective money on tourism. Now that Troup County’s tourism dollars are with Visit LaGrange, it has a bit more freedom over how that money can be spent.

Troup County and LaGrange are sending their dollars to Visit LaGrange. West Point has discussed using the Greater Valley Area Chamber of Commerce in Valley, Alabama, to manage its tourism funds, and Hogansville hasn’t decided on how it will allocate those funds as of Friday.

During a work session on Thursday, the county commissioners revealed how they would like to see tourism dollars spent in 2020. However, Board Chairman Patrick Crews made sure to note that they could make changes if necessary.

The total budget was $40,000 for 2020.

The largest amount of money was $15,000 put into the outsourcing freelance videographers and photographers.

Next, the county directed Visit LaGrange to spend $2,500 on social media ads, and $5,000 each on search engine marketing and search engine optimization.

Also, the budget called for $5,000 to market conventions, expos or events and $5,500 in printing materials, which would be posters, brochures or billboards.

Crews said the county typically brings in about $40,000 to $60,000 in tourism dollars but those funds can’t be used for everything.

“Please, everyone understand that money is earmarked. We can only spend it for certain purposes,” he said.

“This is money that has to be spent on basically trying to promote Troup County and bring people into the community to spend nights in our hotel rooms.”

Crews said that another rule is that money has to go through a 501c6. He added there was no other organization in LaGrange that could take this money and spend it the way the county would request.

“Our deal with them is that we would submit a budget to them on how we would want our money spent for Troup County,” Crews said. “We are not locked in stone, so if we see something that needs a change, we have the ability to go and change that.”

He said the board would review the tourism budget annually, and if they wanted to move funds around the focus more on specific areas on tourism, they could do that.

“In the past, we just send our money over to the chamber, and it was all put in a pot, and if they wanted to place an ad in a magazine or whatever, they just pulled it out,” Crews said.

“We didn’t have any say-so about how it was spent.”

Commissioner Lewis Davis felt the county was getting a better deal working with Visit LaGrange.

“That is the beauty of what we got here because we have the ability to actually control how it is spent,” he said. “In the past, we haven’t had any say so, and the chamber was the ones who decided.”