Virtual city council meeting

Representatives from different local organizations discussed plans to disburse the hotel occupancy tax funds to collect in 2020-2021 during an online city council meeting held Aug. 4. Conventions & Visitors Bureau representative Blanca Larson and City of Del Rio Mayor Bruno Lozano argued over the 10 percentage points cut the HOT committee is recommending for the CVB.

A proposed funding cut for the Del Rio Convention& Visitors Bureau (CVB) sparked verbal sparring between the mayor and the head of the CVB during a recent city council meeting.

Mayor Bruno “Ralphy” Lozano and Blanca Larson, who heads the Del Rio Convention & Visitors Bureau, quarreled during the council’s Aug. 4 meeting, during a discussion of the proposed disbursement of the hotel occupancy tax (HOT) funds the city plans to collect in 2020-2021.

Lozano is the head of a committee that recommended a cut in the CVB’s funding, from 35 percent of the HOT monies collected by the city to 25 percent.

Representatives of the organizations seeking HOT funds from the city each year make a presentation about the work their groups have done and the items and events on which the HOT funds have been spent.

Larson made her presentation on the work of the CVB during the Aug. 4 meeting.

She told council members she is appealing the recommended funding cut, noting, “We’ve already dropped our budget by 40 percent, due to the hotels’ funding being down because of COVID-19.”

She went over the events and meetings the CVB supports and helps put together here and noted the CVB “brings in tourism” that fills hotels and helps fund all of the other organizations receiving a slice of the HOT fund pie.

“Any reduction (in funding) right now would be crippling to the CVB,” Larson told the council, adding she would like to be included on the council’s agenda for further discussions of the proposed funding cut.

After Larson’s presentation, Lozano asked several questions about the CVB’s work and spoke about COVID-19 restrictions at the Amistad National Recreation Area. Those restrictions have since been lifted.

Lozano said the closures and cancellations forced by the pandemic give the city an opportunity to redirect funds toward work on the civic center and Brown Plaza, as well as other facilities that are not being used.

He also told Larson he has “concerns about innovation” and said, “The CVB has consistently gotten every dollar it has requested, and while we appreciate your hard work, the (HOT funds) committee is not taking away the opportunity to make up the deficit.”

The mayor noted the city maintains a $140,000 fund balance in an account for the city’s HOT funds committee to dole out for specific events and invited Larson repeatedly to apply for funding from that source. He also encouraged her as well as other organizations receiving city HOT monies to apply for HOT funding from Val Verde County.

“Right now is the time for innovation, to think outside the box,” Lozano said.

“I don’t understand why you want to reduce our funding,” Larson said when the mayor had finished.

A final decision on the HOT funds distribution will be made by the city council later this month.

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