Visit Austin budget approved by council following concern over expenses

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Visit Austin—formerly the Austin Convention and Visitor’s Bureau—received City Council approval of its budget Thursday following a two-week postponement sparked by council questioning some expenditures.

The bureau’s total budget is roughly $17.2 million, with $2.2 million coming from private sector funding and $15 million from hotel occupancy tax revenue. The money will fund the bureau’s efforts to market Austin nationally and internationally as a destination for business and leisure. The budget includes a new $1.2 million bill to pay for police and security presence at spring festival season events, something traditionally paid for by taxpayers but amended during the budget proceedings last month.

During a Sept. 28 council meeting, some council members raised concerns that the bureau was spending what some considered to be substantial funds on wining and dining potential clients.

Those expenditures, which included Lady Gaga tickets and Kendra Scott jewelry, initially gave City Council pause, forcing a two-week postponement of the budget’s passage. On Thursday, Visit Austin representatives said they would use funds raised through the private sector for such expenses moving forward.

In a letter to the mayor and council, Tom Noonan, CEO of Visit Austin, also committed to hiring local musicians for entertainment during out-of-market events and only showcasing local talent and “iconic, local venues” when hosting clients in Austin.

Council reduced Visit Austin’s fiscal year 2017-18 budget by $2 million, as it diverted those hotel tax funds to fund historic restoration projects in the city.

“I think you guys are doing a great job,” Austin Mayor Steve Adler told the representatives.

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Christopher Neely

Christopher Neely is Community Impact's Austin City Hall reporter. A New Jersey native, Christopher moved to Austin in 2016 following two years of community reporting along the Jersey Shore. His bylines have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Baltimore Sun and USA Today. He is a graduate of the University of Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism.

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