QUEENSBURY - The State Boys Basketball Tournament received a substantial boost Feb. 18 when Warren County supervisors voted to restore most of the occupancy tax funding they had cut this year from the $50,000 sum they have traditionally pledged from occupancy tax receipts to promote the event.
The restoration of $12,000 or 24 percent of the tournament's former promotional budget - just weeks before the state tournament - means television commercials, newspaper ads, Internet advertising and media releases that had been scuttled for this year will now be resumed.
Doug Kenyon, chairman of the event for 21 years, talked later Friday of how pleased he was over the decision.
"I am very, very happy," he said. "It really increases the exposure we'll get for the tournament - which we really need at this point," he said.
The basketball tournament, for decades one of the region's signature events, is credited with bringing thousands of visitors annually to Glens Falls and introducing the region to them in a favorable light.
Hours after the Friday meeting, Kenyon had already contacted marketing representatives and placed orders to boost the tournament's advertising dramatically, he said.
"I am very grateful for the restored funding," Kenyon said with a broad smile on his face.
The action came days after the supervisors learned that more than $900,000 existed in occupancy tax reserves, most of which county officials weren't aware of.
The supervisors were expecting other event promoters to show up at the meeting to make pleas for increased funding, as this year's occupancy tax awards reflected deep cuts - and many events that qualified for grants were not funded.
This year the county supervisors hosted requests for a total of $830,000 or so for 54 events, but doled out only $294,000 in their annual January distribution - a sum they thought at that time was their maximum available.
The Adirondack Balloon Festival, for instance, was cut from $50,000 in 2010 to $26,000 in 2011.
The supervisors decided to convene their Occupancy Tax Committee within a week to start deciding how to dole out $90,000 of that stash, the maximum they are allowed by local law to spend from the occupancy tax reserve funds
Hours after the meeting, Balloon festival President Mark Donahue said he'd be seeking more money for the 2011 event, which was now facing crimped finances due to the county's cut.
"We will most definitely be asking for restoration of traditional funding," he said, adding that the money the county spends to promote the festival is an investment in boosted sales tax revenue. "In the long run, this funding helps the county as well."
Several supervisors voted against the decision to restore $12,000 to the basketball tournament, saying it was not fair to the other entities seeking promotional grants, that it set a bad precedent for making special awards, and that it circumvented full review by the county Occupancy Tax panel which had spent many hours scrutinizing the grant applications.
Voting against the $12,000 special award and citing these reasons were: Occupancy Tax Committee Chairman Bill Kenny, Lake George Town Supervisor Frank McCoy, Lake Luzerne Supervisor Gene Merlino, Bolton Supervisor Ron Conover, and Thurman Supervisor Evelyn Wood. The rest of the 20 county supervisors voted in favor of the decision, including Johnsburg Supervisor Sterling Goodspeed and Glens Falls Ward 1 Supervisor Dan Girard, who both offered impassioned pleas for the vote Friday, citing that the event was fast approaching and needed the money to be successful.
County Administrator Paul Dusek said he recommended keeping $300,000 to $500,000 in the occupancy tax reserve account.