Schenectady County plans to award a record-high $50,000 in tourism promotion money to aid local arts organizations doing special events, county Legislature Chairman Anthony Jasenski said Thursday.
The funding for the County Initiative Arts Grant Program comes from a portion of revenue from the county hotel/motel occupancy tax, which county officials expect to grow this year with the opening of the Rivers Casino.
Grants are for activities that support historic preservation; the performing, visual or literary arts; or programs that promote tourism. Last year it supported community concerts, the Scotia-Glenville Traveling Children’s Museum, and the Canal Fest of the Schenectady County Historical Society, among many others.
Last year’s grants totaled $45,000, and the year before it was $36,000, a figure that had held steady for a number of years.
County spokesman Joe McQueen said funding was boosted last year based on the opening of the 120-room Doubletree by Hilton in downtown Schenectady, and it is being boosted again this year based on the anticipated impact of the casino, which has already led to the opening of one new on-site hotel, with another under construction in Glenville. Between those two, more than 200 more rooms will be added in the county.
Part of the county room tax also goes to Proctors, whose shows are a major visitor draw.
“We’re seeing an increase in tourism and an increase in rooms,” McQueen said.
In 2016, the county supported 30 organizations, said Legislator Cathy Gatta, chairwoman of the county’s Tourism, Arts and Special Events Committee.
“Obviously the casino is a major draw, but we don’t want to be known as a casino destination,” McQueen said. “We want to be a tourism destination that has a casino.”
A new county Tourism and Convention Bureau is being created this year to help promote tourism in the county, taking a role that was previously performed by Proctors.
Applications for 2017-2018 must be submitted by Feb. 13, and the money used for community events that take place between April 1, 2017, and March 31, 2018. Additional consideration will be given to organizations that are collaborating with other Schenectady County arts organizations, and to those tied to an existing or proposed special event.
The maximum grant is $5,000, but no organization last year received more than $3,000. Applications will be reviewed by a citizen committee before grants are awarded.
Applications can be downloaded from the county website at www.schenectadycounty.com/CIP. They are also available by emailing [email protected], by calling the county Legislative office, or at the county Legislature’s offices, 620 State St., Schenectady.