City of Marfa accepting HOT grant applications until October 7

MARFA — The City of Marfa is accepting grant applications for hotel occupancy tax (HOT) grants, which must meet certain criteria, from now until October 7 for events occurring from October 1 to March 31, 2023. 

The city distributes HOT funds via three main categories — arts and culture, historic preservation, and advertising reimbursement. Generally speaking, the money is awarded to events and projects that promote the local tourism and hotel and lodging industries, putting “heads in beds,” said Abby Boyd, director of tourism for the City of Marfa who serves on the HOT grant committee.

“I will do my best to guide people towards the best options for filling out their applications and answer any questions they have,” said Boyd. “The committee meets and we decide on a recommendation to give to city council and then city council ultimately decides what the grants should be.” 

The city is limited by law as to how it may spend HOT tax dollars, but discussions amongst Marfa’s city council are ongoing as to ways to leverage the valuable revenue stream more creatively, and a meeting held earlier this year revealed local citizens, too, were interested in looking into alternative uses for the funds. Over the past couple years the city has collected around $700,000 in HOT taxes annually. 

The committee meets and releases funding twice every fiscal year. Arts and culture applicants may receive up to $8,000, and advertising reimbursements may be issued for up to $3,500. In the past, money for historic preservation projects funded by HOT taxes was typically already allocated during the city budgeting process, said Boyd, for the Marfa and Presidio County Museum building, for example, or renovations to the Marfa Volunteer Fire Department (which, due to its draw as a tourism attraction, was able to receive funds for renovations in the past).

Uniquely, two local events routinely receive historic preservation funds — Chinati Weekend and Marfa Lights Festival — both of which were founded in 1987. The Blackwell School is also set to receive $5,000 a year for four years, a total of $20,000, per a previous agreement with the city. 

For advertising reimbursements, either direct funding or the use of a facility may be agreed upon. If advertising locally, only a portion of funds will be reimbursed, whereas advertising to bring in overnight guests to the area will be fully reimbursed, said Boyd. 

“What the advertising grant is intended for is for you to be advertising outside of the tri-county area to people who will be traveling to Marfa, staying in hotels for your events,” said Boyd. 

In addition to arts and culture events that bring in out-of-towners, multi-day sporting events may qualify for the HOT tax grants, said Boyd. Last year, HOT grant recipients included Ballroom Marfa, In Front of Us Film Series, Agave Festival, The Marfa and Presidio County Museum, Marfa Invitational, Marfa 100, and more. 

Applicants do not have to be a 501c3 to receive a HOT grant and are not required to be located within city limits. The city requires all grant recipients to put the city’s logo on their website and advertising materials. 

Boyd said there are a few criteria the committee looks upon favorably when reviewing applications, such as the addition of data about attendance and hotel stays from previous years’ events, advertising plans and event budgets. In general, events that take place across multiple days and require visitors to stay in town are more likely to be funded, she said, as are those with reasonable budgets. 

“Considering that there are so many events taking place throughout the year, we want people to ask for a realistic amount. We don’t want this to be the kind of thing where your event is entirely dependent on the city, but if this is the kind of thing where the city can help make your event happen and it does meet all the requirements then that’s great,” said Boyd. 

Those with questions about HOT grants should reach out ahead of the October 7 deadline, said Boyd.

Information and applications can be found at cityofmarfa.com/bc-hot. Completed applications may be sent to [email protected] no later than 5 p.m. Friday, October 7. For questions or more information, reach out to Abby Boyd, [email protected].