Columbia debunks funding rumors after passage of Proposition 1

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COLUMBIA - City officials set out to debunk rumors that the city is taking funds from the Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) Signature Series Events to help pay for the new airport terminal. The city said this week no money will be taken from the events, which have included the True-False Film Festival, Roots N Blues N BBQ and Art in the Park.

Those events are currently paid for with a 4 percent hotel tax. This week, voters approved an additional 1 percent in the tax, and the city said that's the money that will pay for airport expansion.

Columbia Community Relations Director Steven Sapp said the city received phone calls from supporters of these events saying the $75,000 allocated for 2016 and future funds were going towards the new airport terminal.

"We don't know where the rumors were coming from," Sapp said. "The folks that were associated with those events were certainly hearing them and it was very concerning to them. So we did reach out to a number of them yesterday and assured them that their funding through the CVB was safe and that there was no truth to that rumor."

Sapp said the CVB's remaining events for the year will move forward as planned, and the city is looking forward to 2017. The events apply for funding on a year to year basis.

"This sounds like somebody had some of their facts wrong, created a little bit of panic amongst some of the great events that bring tourism to the city of Columbia. So we wanted to assure them that they were going to be supported by us just like they always have been" Sapp said.

The new airport terminal will cost the city an estimated $10 million. Sapp said the hotel tax increase will last 23 years at the most, but could end earlier if the expansion is fully funded before then.

Beth Mead, from the Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the CVB was not sure where the rumors came from, but was glad to hear the city took action as swiftly as it did.