Ithacans being beautifully Ithacan at the 2016 Ithaca Festival. Photo by Ed Dittenhoefer

TOMPKINS COUNTY — Just over $167,000 in grants were approved Tuesday by Tompkins County Legislature for dozens of organizations, projects and events in the community. The grants are funded by the county’s room occupancy tax.

Tompkins County collected about $2.4 million in room occupancy tax last year, legislator Jim Dennis said. The tax is used for tourism and community events, celebrations and projects. The funding is broken into new tourism initiative grants, community celebration grants, tourism marketing and advertising grants and tourism project grants.

Events like the Ithaca Festival, Streets Alive! Ithaca, the Dragon Boat Festival and Wizarding Weekend received grants. Funding also went to community organizations hosting events like the Greater Ithaca Activities Center and Southside Community Center.

Anyone renting out a room or rooms in Tompkins County for less than 30 days, whether it’s a big hotel or AirBnB, must collect and pay room occupancy tax to the county. The room occupancy tax is 5 percent for properties with 11 rooms or more and 3 percent for properties with less than that.

The grants approved by Tompkins County on Tuesday were four grant programs out of nine that come from the room occupancy tax. There will be a fall round of grants as well, Knipe said.

In addition to the grants, money collected from the room occupancy tax also goes to marketing, to Tompkins County Area Development, strategic tourism implementation, to beautification and public art programs, workforce development and other local projects. About 10 percent goes to administrative costs. The largest amount, about 37 percent, goes to the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Tom Knipe, principal planner and tourism program director in Tompkins County, said the mission of the tourism program and tourism board is to invest in tourism in a way that promotes economic development and strengthens community institutions. That includes increasing visitor spending — which was more than $195 million in 2015 — and increasing overnight stays.

“We’re really interested in finding that nexus between tourism … while enhancing local quality of life,” Knipe said.

See how funding was allocated and check out what events are on the horizon in 2017.

Featured image: 2016 Ithaca Festival. Photo by Ed Dittenhoefer

Kelsey O'Connor

Kelsey O'Connor is the managing editor for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at and follow her on Twitter @bykelseyoconnor.