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Sussex County Chambers of Commerce Could Lose Funding in State Budget Cuts

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Rehoboth Beach, Delaware Rehoboth Beach, Delaware

REHOBOTH BEACH, Del. - As the state of Delaware weighs a nearly $400 million budget deficit, chambers of commerce budgets may be slashed due to a proposed change to the state's lodging tax.

Currently, hotels in Delaware are taxed eight percent. Five percent goes towards the state's general fund, one percent goes to beach replenishment, one percent goes to state tourism and one goes to Delaware's three visitor bureaus. In Sussex County,  some of that visitor bureau money goes to local chambers of commerce for marketing measures, and according to some, it makes a huge difference.

"We've had a lot of people who come through the door and say they saw an ad in Southern Living magazine and decided to come visit us," says Betsy Reamer, the executive director of the Lewes Chamber of Commerce. ""If we are in a publication that has Maryland, Virginia, New Jersey, Pennsyvania full pages and [not Delaware] people won't know to come here." 

Carol Everhart, the president and CEO of the Rehoboth Beach/Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce, agrees. She says they must market, so if they lose the funds, that money will come out of programs and potential jobs.

"If I'm not running a program or event, I'm not buying advertising. I'm not promoting to come to the area during that time frame and that touches the businesses," she says. "It's a negative that touches the businesses in the worst way."

Reamer says the lodging tax money makes up a quarter of their budget. For Everhart, it's a third. Everhart says cutting back on programs would cut back on event-specific positions. She says advertising is key to keeping Delaware's tourism so successful.

"There's a general perception that if you have the beach, that's enough. The reality is you have to add the plus," she says. "Because if you don't put the fun in there, you don't bring [tourists] at the time of year when the business community can benefit from that." 

The changes are all theoretical as of yet, as the budget has not been finalized. State Rep. Harvey Kenton, R-36, who is with the Joint Finance Committee, says they hated making these proposed cuts, but had to to continue the budget process. He's hopeful some cuts won't be set in stone as the leadership reviews the budget.

"I'm hoping that there will be some resolve and there will be some concessions done," Kenton says. "Where we can come together and hope that some of these cuts that we made will be reinstated. But I know some of them won't be able to."

Legislators have until June 30 to finalize the next budget.

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