Lodging tax increase? Demopolis City Council opens tax raise discussion

Published 12:00 am Monday, October 10, 2005

DEMOPOLIS-On Thursday night, the Demopolis City Council discussed the possibility of amending their Lodging Tax Ordinance 2003-13 to bring their lodging tax up to 7 percent.

Councilmember Jack Cooley said raising the tax would be beneficial because it would put the city closer to the levels used by neighboring municipalities.

“My suggestion is that we raise our rate to be competitive with our surrounding area,” Cooley said. “Tuscaloosa is 11.5 percent, Montgomery is 12 percent, Selma is 10 percent and Meridian is 9.5 percent.”

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The last time the tax was raised the city also included a clause to reward businesses who paid their tax in a timely manner. However, Cooley suggested the council recommended against including this in the amended ordinance.

“The last governing body that raised the tax from three to 6 percent also provided for the hotel owners who paid the lodging tax in a timely fashion by a certain date to deduct three percent of the tax submitted to keep themselves,” Cooley said. “I suggest that we eliminate that.”

The historical society had also asked for 2.5 percent of the tax to be earmarked for their use, but those favoring the tax suggested they also leave this request out of the amended ordinance.

Council members stressed to the public Thursday’s discussion was merely the first step in making an official decision. The second would be to allow the hotel owners to give their input at a public hearing.

Councilmember Woody Collins said he and the other council members felt it is very important to hear from the hotel owners.

“All we are doing is starting the process,” Collins said. “I too would like to hear their concerns.”

Collins again stressed Thursday’s vote was only the beginning of a three part process.

“If we vote yes tonight all we are voting for is giving the hotel owners the opportunity to come in and tell their side,” Collins said. “We won’t be voting the tax into effect.”

The tax would affect very few people in the city of Demopolis as far as payment is concerned. Most of the hotel owners live in other parts of Alabama or the United States.

Demopolis Mayor Cecil P. Williamson said the passage of the tax would bring them to phase two.

“If this passes tonight we would hold a public hearing,” Williamson said. “The final vote would not come until our first meeting in November.”

That meeting is scheduled for Thursday Nov. 3

The amendment to the ordinance made it through phase one by a 4-2 vote with council members Charles Jones and Thomas Moore voting against the plan.

If the amendment makes it through the final stages the tax is expected to generate a total of about 60 cents a room.