Council holds public hearing for lodging tax ordinance

Published 12:00 am Friday, October 28, 2005

DEMOPOLIS-At the Oct. 6 meeting of the Demopolis City Council an ordinance to allow the council to amend their current lodging tax, came to the table. Thursday a public hearing was held to allow citizen’s and motel owners voice their opinions.

Demopolis Area Chamber of Commerce President Jay Shows said there had been some miscommunication about the changes that would come from the amendment. Shows said it has been stated by the media that Demopolis’ rates were currently at six percent while surrounding cities were at 9,10 and 11 percent. However, when the four percent state tax was added in Demopolis was right in the middle.

With more motels coming to town Shows said tax revenue would increase automatically. However, he said Chamber members were neutral on the topic.

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“With new rooms coming on line in 2006, your lodging tax total should be higher anyway,” Shows said. “But I am speaking for the Chamber and we are neutral on this.”

Days Inn owner Nick Patel said he was also neutral, but he would like to see motel owners who pay on time get a break.

“The only thing I would like to add is if we are going to include a lodging tax, I would like to add if we are going to pay within a certain time we should expect a little bit of a break for that,” Patel said. “There do not seem as if there are going to be any breaks if we pay on time.”

With added expenses Councilman Jack Cooley said there was no room for a break.

“This city council is responsible as everyone knows for the city’s budget,” Cooley said. “There are three areas of increased financial needs that were either initiated or this governing body had to carry forward with no avenues of revenue to sustain them.”

Cooley said this year the city had allotted $6,200 for the Welcome Center, $61,172 for the Theo Ratliff Activity Center and $100,000 a year of support for the Demopolis University Center.

“We are committed to $167,372 in operating funding that we took away from other city departments,” Cooley said. “We still have to provide operating expenses and that is why this proposal was made.”

Cooley said he had researched the subject and even with an increase Demopolis lodging would still be lower than surrounding cities.

“My concern when this was first brought up was would this put the lodging providers at a disadvantage with surrounding cities and I checked that also,” Cooley said. “The three largest motels in Demopolis the average commercial rate per night was $55.66. I checked three motels in Selma and the average commercial per night rate was $59.97.”

Cooley said he also checked three hotels in Tuscaloosa and the average rate was $70.66 and $84.40 for five hotels in Meridian.

Cooley said with the increase each room would pull an additional 55 cents, which was still almost $4 per night cheaper than Selma, $14 less than Tuscaloosa and $28 less than Meridian.

The final vote will come at the council’s Nov. 3 meeting. When the council voted in their Oct. 6 meeting to move to phase one of the project, which was to hold the public hearing, the vote finished in favor by a 4-2 vote with councilmen Charles Jones and Thomas Moore voting no.