NEW HANOVER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - Leaders in the New Hanover County tourism industry are expressing their concerns over potential changes to the school system’s calendar for 2020-2021.
New Hanover County Schools has a calendar committee working to reduce the district’s nine separate calendars. They’re also looking to split the school year into two semesters with the first ending before the winter break and the second beginning when students return in the new year. The school year would end by Memorial Day weekend. That would require the school year begin about two weeks earlier than it currently does.
President and CEO of the New Hanover County Tourism Development Authority, Kim Hufham, says she’s concerned about the impact this change would have on the high school age workforce and visitor spending in the month of August, which is the second highest of the year for room occupancy tax collection.
“When we look at the room occupancy tax, it’s not just about tourism. Our room occupancy tax here in New Hanover County also funds our beach re-nourishment projects. It’s funded our convention center, it funds our lifeguard programs and many other tourism related activities in our community, so again if those receipts go down, those types of funding options would be decreased as well,” Hufham said.
At the Blockade Runner Beach Resort on Wrightsville Beach, General Manager Nicolas Montoya echoes Hufham’s message and reiterates that they do not want to pit education against tourism.
“One of the things I’m most concerned about is that if locally a destination like New Hanover County- if our collective entities don’t support tourism, then I don’t think we’d have a good stand to tell other counties in the state of North Carolina to do the same thing," Montoya said. "Little by little, the snowball effect would happen, that counties within the state would take a similar position in their own school calendars, affecting the overall visitation within the state and that would be a tremendous impact not only for New Hanover County but for the state in general.”
Montoya also sits on the Tourism Development Authority Board and has children in the New Hanover County school system.
Hufham and Montoya say the tourism industry offsets taxes by $228 per household each year.
“I think its a little bit of a lack of understanding of the impact tourism can have on the area. I think people generally take it for granted and don’t realize what the impact might have into the future,” Montoya said. “I think that number would sharply decrease when we lose the weighted average of the effect of tourism in August in New Hanover County.”
In an email to Wrightsville Beach Mayor Bill Blair, Hufham wrote:
“New Hanover County is ranked #8 in North Carolina in tourism expenditures and is one of our largest industries. If the NHC Board of Education moves the school date to early August, they are essentially saying that tourism is not important to our community.”
Hufham also provided statistics on 2018 Visitor Impacts:
- Visitors spent $612.92 million in New Hanover County
- $54.27 million in state & local taxes (the taxes help fund the NHC schools)
- 6,470 employed in tourism in New Hanover County.
The calendar committee will eventually make a recommendation to the school board which has the final say.
The committee’s next meeting is Thursday, October 17 at 4 p.m. at the Board of Education Center.