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Atlanta Jazz Festival funded, again, with proceeds of car rental tax at airport

By David Pendered

The Atlanta Jazz Festival has prevailed in what’s become an annual ritual of tapping the airport car rental tax to help pay for the event. This year, the festival is to receive up to $350,000, a sum that’s up by $100,000 from last year’s appropriation, following a vote Monday by the Atlanta City Council.

The website for the Atlanta Jazz Festival has scant information about this year’s event. A line on the top left of the page states, “MAY 25-26, 2019 // MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND.” The remaining information on the site appears to relate to events slated for the event in 2018. The most recent photoset in the media center appears to have been updated in 2013.

Music fans can look to the legislation to start marking their calendars for Atlanta’s premier city-sponsored jazz event. The paper provides a general timeframe and reminds that events might be crowded:

  • “WHEREAS, the Jazz Festival is held throughout the month of May and includes a predominate number of free events and a limited number of events for which an admission price is charged. These Jazz Festival events annually attracts over three hundred thousand (300,000) visitors and patrons to the City;”

The latest news on a jazz-related front is Al Green’s scheduled performance May 3 at the Fox Theatre. Green’s show is to follow his April 28 appearance at the New Orleans Jazz Fest, according to a report on broadwayworld.com.

Meantime, again this year the jazz festival funding legislation came forward with a clause stating the support is needed because of a downturn in the economy:

  • “WHEREAS, due to a downturn in the economy the amount of revenue generated from sponsorship has decreased significantly;”
Camile Love

Atlanta’s Commissioner of Cultural Affairs. credit: John Glenn

The same language was in legislation in 2018. At that time, Finance Committee Chair Howard Shook observed: “I think it’s appropriate to remove that.”

Again this year, the language about the sagging economy was removed before the council’s vote.

This year’s funding request for the Atlanta Jazz Festival was submitted by the Mayor’s Office of Cultural Affairs.

Commissioner Camille Russell Love signed off, by proxy, on a funding request that said a budget shortfall of up to $350,000, according to the legislation. The shortfall was not anticipated when the budget for the Atlanta Jazz Festival was created:

  • FISCAL IMPACT – Cost not anticipated in the Department’s current year budget….”

Remaining parts of the legislation justify the use of the car rental tax to support the jazz festival as related to promoting an array of economic development efforts:

  • “WHEREAS … the City of Atlanta (“City”) is authorized to utilize funds from its rental motor vehicle excise tax for the purpose of promoting industry, trade, commerce and tourism in the City; and
  • “WHEREAS, the City produces the Atlanta Jazz Festival (“Jazz Festival”) each year for the benefit of its citizens and visitors;”

The car rental tax fund is so large that the $350,000 represents just 0.008 percent of the fund’s projected intake for the fiscal year. The city expects to collect $40.8 million from the tax on 12 rental car companies. The companies pay the Department of Aviation 10 percent of their annual gross sales in return for occupying a total of 8,700 rental car parking spaces at the airport, according to the city’s budget for the fiscal year that ends June 1.



David Pendered

David Pendered, Managing Editor, is an Atlanta journalist with more than 30 years experience reporting on the region’s urban affairs, from Atlanta City Hall to the state Capitol. Since 2008, he has written for print and digital publications, and advised on media and governmental affairs. Previously, he spent more than 26 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and won awards for his coverage of schools and urban development. David graduated from North Carolina State University and was a Western Knight Center Fellow.


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