MALONE — Franklin County just about gutted its 2012 Tourism Office budget following the retirement of Director Neil Seymour.
Legislators may put some cash back in for 2013, but they are also watching a tug-of-war developing for tourism promotion — how best to increase it, who will shape it and who will control it in 2013 and beyond.
The issue takes on more importance because tourism has been a huge revenue generator and can become even more lucrative if the State Legislature approves a 5 percent bed tax the county wants established.
Tourism is under the umbrella of the Industrial Develop Agency Board of Directors, and the county has an annual contract with IDA to provide tourism services.
Recenty, after the county invited an out-of-county entity here to talk about hosting fishing-related events, an IDA Board member made an impassioned pitch to legislators on its successes and the office’s ability to continue handling the duties.
Franklin County spent $349,000 on tourism in 2011, but slashed the budget to $141,765 for 2012 following Seymour’s departure.
Legislators spent just enough to cover half of one staff person’s salary and to match the annual state-tourism allocation that Franklin County uses for advertising in North American cities to attract visitors.
The tourism budget in 2013 was tentatively increased by $75,000 to $216,765, in part because the state’s matching-fund allocation is larger and also because of two recommendations from County Manager and Budget Officer Thomas Leitz.
One idea awards $25,000 to FISHCAP, an initiative that the St. Lawrence County Chamber of Commerce and Town Massena created as an economic-development tool to promote fishing in the St. Lawrence River Valley.
FISHCAP wants to partner with Franklin County on world-class tournaments to draw wealthy visitors to area lakes, rivers and streams.
But Paul Hogan, a member of the IDA Board, called the county rude for allocating money on paper to tourism-related efforts without discussing it with them first.