Supporting the Ricks Centre is taxation without representation

To the editor:

In response to the letter regarding the innkeepers tax funding for the Ricks Centre, (“Innkeepers tax should keep funding H. J. Ricks Centre,” Nov. 16, A6), the Hancock County Tourism Commission never planned on removing funding from the Hancock County Visitors Bureau (HCVB), aka the Ricks Centre.

After a recent State Board of Accounts audit, the tourism commission was told it was not in compliance with all applicable state statutes.

The HCVB no longer will be given a percentage of the tourism commission budget each year without applying for funding through the tourism grant process and every year thereafter.

The HCVB received more than $526,000 during the combined fiscal years 2014, 2015 and 2016 (or 53 percent of the tourism budget each year.) For the fiscal year 2017, the HCVB is receiving 23 percent of the tourism commission’s budget, which amounted to roughly $56,000 as of September.

The tourism commission must abide by all the Indiana codes for disbursing public tax dollars. This requires all Indiana not-for-profit 501(c)3s applying for grants to produce supporting documents such as receipts, canceled checks, tickets, invoices, bills and contracts as part of the procedures for receiving funding from the tourism commission.

This requirement verifies these public funds are being used properly and become public records. Another requirement is that any unused funding must be returned to the tourism commission.

The Accounting and Uniform Compliance Guidelines Manual for Counties of Indiana, Chapter 1 states, “Public records must be available for examination to provide supporting information for the validity and accountability of monies disbursed. Payments without supporting documentation may be the personal obligation of the responsible official or employee.”

If the HCVB complies with all the tourism commission’s grant requirements for receiving tourism funds and produces the necessary documentation that proves the funding was spent properly, they will receive their funding. If they fail to follow all the requirements, the tourism commission should refuse to fund them.

I don’t believe the innkeepers tax was meant to be a permanent funding source for any single not-for-profit 501(c)3. If this is the case, then I believe the HCVB should seek an ordinance from the Hancock County Board of Commissioners stating their support for the Ricks Centre, its importance to the community and their support for continued future funding of the Ricks Centre.

Taking money from the innkeepers’ patrons to provide tax-supported entertainment is picking winners and losers and is not fair in a free society. If the public wants it, they will support it with their own money, not the money of others.

The progressives have figured out a way to get taxpayers to cover the costs of their hobbies.

It’s taxation without proper representation, and I find that disturbing.

George Langston