The Tourist Development Council (TDC) will change the way it buys advertising to stretch funds for a popular program.

At the April 16 county meeting, commissioners voted unanimously to allow the TDC to merge funds for the popular “Small Grants Program” with their regular advertising budget.

TDC Chairman Paul Parker said over the last two years the number of requests for small grants has grown from 24 to 40 during the 2011 fiscal year. He said that, to save money, the TDC plans to purchase bulk advertising at discount rates and promote events throughout the year “through designated TDC contractors.”

He said the TDC will have difficulty maintaining a high level of exposure without BP funding.

“It has become increasingly apparent that, with the end of BP funding, there will be significant reductions in funds available for a host of TDC activities,” Parker said. “The small grant program has become very popular over the life of the TDC. It is now not unusual for organizations to receive as little as $1,200 for their organization’s activities.”

Parker said, under this new arrangement, the TDC would not have to turn away any event seeking promotional funding.

In an interview following the meeting, TDC Executive Director Curt Blair said that because the TDC does not give money to an event for advertising, the county’s liability in case of an accident is reduced and events will no longer be required by the county to purchase expensive insurance.

Parker said that groups eligible for the small grants program will have input on the selection of advertising markets.

Parker told commissioners, “We would like endorsement or support that you understand how we are going forward. This way, organizers can spend their time working on the event and let us worry about the promotion.”

Parker said the TDC is hoping to further expand its budget with RESTORE Act funding and has submitted a grant for $500,000 in the second funding round.