After Visit Florida's tensions with state authorities over funding, tourism operations around the country are facing heightened scrutiny. It would be a shame to see state officials throw away some of Colorado's tourism potential, especially with things like pot tourism already showing results.
A two-year audit concluded that Colorado’s management of a program designed to pay for tourism projects has failed to establish proper controls and adequately monitor projects.
The state auditor’s office on Monday blasted officials’ handling of the Regional Tourism Act, the Denver Post reported. Passed in 2009, the act provides tax-increment financing to help fund large-scale tourism projects.
Five of nine projects that applied for funding were approved from 2012 to 2015 and awarded more than $445 million in state sales taxes to be paid throughout several decades. A total of $11.3 million has been distributed so far.
The audit, however, stated that three of those projects were approved despite a third-party analysis that found the projects didn’t meet standards. Furthermore, all five project applications forecast incremental state sales tax revenue calculations that were higher than the third-party analysts’ calculations, the audit stated.
State officials were unable to demonstrate how the higher calculations were justified, the audit stated. But during a Colorado Legislative Audit Committee on Monday, state economic development officials said the program is unique and has improved since it started.
Auditors also found that the state did not hold the entities behind the projects accountable for fulfilling their reporting obligations. Eleven of 57 required reports were not submitted, auditors said, and the state could not provide sufficient evidence that 32 of 64 meetings were held.
Many of the concerns from committee members center on an $81.4 million award to Aurora for the Gaylord Rockies Hotel back in May 2012.
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Photo Credit: Colorado officials are being criticized for mismanaging funds allocated to tourism projects throughout the state. Pictured are tourists at Rocky Mountains National Park in Colorado. Kent Kanouse / Flickr
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