The developers of Aiken County's master plan for recreation have suggested the implementation of a 2 percent hospitality tax to help funding levels after an examination of countywide rec programs.
By introducing the tax, which would be placed on the sales of prepared meals and beverages, it could help develop recreation projects, according to Clemson University's Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism Management, the group contracted to develop the master plan.
Dr. Bob Brookover, director of Clemson's Institute for Tourism Research and Development, said the tax could significantly impact revenues while having a minimal impact on taxpayers. Currently, the master plan is only a draft and has not been formally approved by County Council, he added.
The draft plan states that currently, Greenville County's TRAC Plan, a $75-million project which has provided new parks, greenways and a state-of-the-art aquatic center, actually has been funded by hospitality taxes.
Brookover provided an example of the local impact of the tax, explaining that an individual or family who spends $100 a month on prepared food and beverage would only see an increase of $2 per month in taxes.
Emory Langston, Aiken County's Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department assistant director, said that currently, the County's athletic programs operate solely on service fees.
She noted that the County currently is offering three sports programs during the spring season. For the County's youth soccer program, 70 participants are taking part, with a registration fee at $55 per child.
The County's church league adult softball program currently has 11 teams with $300 charged per team.
With the County's Dixie Youth baseball and softball program, 90 participants are taking part this spring with two registration fees, $65 for those signing up early and $70 for later registrations.
The County also offers an instructional soccer league in Wagener, which had 28 participants signed up in the fall of 2012 with a charge of $25 per child.
Funding from the County's general fund, she said, goes toward budgetary items like staff salaries and office operations.
Aiken County Administrator Clay Killian said that participation rates are one of the drivers of the funding levels for rec programs.
“If we have a program that nobody signs up for, we're obviously not going to be able to do it,” he said. “If they're not using a service, we need to figure out a different service that people are wanting or drop one altogether.”
He said some activities that have generally been popular over the years, like softball, have actually experienced a decrease in participation, while other County programs, like youth soccer, appear to be on the upswing.
He said the completion of the County's master plan will help shape the future of recreation programs, particularly the parks and programs which are currently well-used.