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Llano County awards $741K in tourism and hospitality grants

Janice Jensen at Llano County Commissioners Court

Janice Jensen pitches her application for $5,350 to the Llano County Commissioners Court on Nov. 13. The money will be to promote her short-term rental property, Aat The Ranch. The county doles out hundreds of thousands of dollars each year to applicants who can prove they are bringing in tourists. Staff photo by Dakota Morrissiey

The Llano County Commissioners Court doled out $741,000 on Monday, Nov. 13, during its annual hotel occupancy tax grant hearing. The court heard from 21 applicants vying for a slice of the HOT money to promote tourism and hospitality in the county. 

No grant applicant was denied, but questions were raised about the benefits to Llano County as a whole if money were to be awarded to events and projects in the city of Llano.

Llano County, like many local governments in Texas, collects a tax on all hotel, motel, and short-term rental transactions within its jurisdiction. The hotel occupancy taxes go into a countywide fund to be distributed as grants to applicants who can show their business, project, event, or organization boosts local tourism and hospitality dollars.

This year, Llano County had $815,451 in its grant pool, but a total of $827,870 was requested from applicants. Commissioners cut the total grants awarded to $741,000 because some of the requests disproportionately benefited the city of Llano rather than all of the county.

Grant applications ranged widely. A $5,350 request from Aat The Ranch in Castell for marketing, advertising, and signage was one of the first approved in full by the court.

The largest request for $142,265 was from the Kingsland/Lake LBJ Chamber of Commerce and Visitor Center for operational costs, lodging membership, a marketing analysis, a welcome monument, and a billboard. It, too, was granted.

Funds were also distributed to support major events, including $100,000 for the Llano Crawfish Open and $6,000 for Llano Heritage Days. 

Another large request came from the Llano Main Street Program for $120,000 to improve the facades of four buildings in the city’s downtown. After some debate among commissioners, the project was awarded $50,000, matching a $40,000 contribution from the owner of the buildings and a $10,000 HOT grant from the city of Llano. This same project was also recently awarded a $25,000 grant from the Lower Colorado River Authority. 

According to Llano Main Street Manager Tony Guidroz, all of Llano’s downtown is considered a historical district. The buildings slated for improvement are at the northern entrance to downtown on Ford Street. They are the first structures people see when they cross the Roy Inks Bridge. 

“While I understand the historical value (of the buildings downtown), I think we need to be very careful and very cognizant we are expending funds for non-events,” Commissioner Linda Raschke told after the vote. “I think the facade in downtown is very important, but I do not think it is more important than events.”

Raschke acknowledged that events held exclusively in the city of Llano, like the Crawfish Open, bring visitors to short-term rental properties and hotels outside of the city limits.