Commission could see tax implemented

Published 8:27 pm Wednesday, January 7, 2009

With the legislative session just around the corner, the Pike County Commission could come one step closer to implementing a new lodging tax locally.

But, in order for the extra 2 percent tax to be added, local legislators will have to first pass a proposal in the session that starts Feb. 3.

Rep. Alan Boothe (D-Troy) would be the first to take up the proposal in the House of Representatives, but he said he isn’t certain what his stance is on the tax at this time.

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When the county commission passed the resolution in their Nov. 12 meeting, it was a proposal that barely got through, with only a 3-2 majority vote.

Boothe said that is something he would have to consider before taking up the bill in the House.

“The county commission as I understand it is split on the issue, and obviously we’ll have to have input from the city of Troy and see what (its) position is before we make a commitment on that,” Boothe said.

Troy Mayor Jimmy Lunsford said the city of Troy has no official position on the tax yet, but he does have opinions of his own.

“It would be my opinion if there would be an additional lodging tax on the city of Troy, then it be a city of Troy lodging tax,” Lunsford said.

Lunsford said the 4-percent tax the city already has in place on hotels is used to promote tourism and compensate for hotel’s use of city services, like law enforcement.

Lunsford told council members in a prior meeting they should begin to formulate an official city stance on the lodging tax issue.

Commissioners in support of the tax haven’t said specifically how they would designate the funds.

District 1 Commissioner Homer Wright, who originally proposed the tax, said some ideas are for the county road department, the general fund or matching grants.

“It would be there for whatever it’s needed for,” Wright said in a prior interview.

When introducing the tax, Wright said it would be a way for the county to bring in more revenues without taxing county residents.

Jimmy Barron and Robin Sullivan, both Republicans, opposed the tax saying it may place burdens on local businesses and hotel owners.

Democrats Charlie Harris and Ray Goodson also voted for the tax, and Republican Karen Berry abstained from voting.

Boothe said he would meet with commissioners next week to discuss the tax and decide where to go from there.

Sen. Wendall Mitchell (D-Luverne) said the tax would only be something he would deal with after it passed through the House.

He said he doesn’t have a take on the bill, but generally when passed unanimously by local government, it’s something he doesn’t mind carrying on.

But, this case may be different since the vote had some opposition.

It also is still unclear whether, if passed by the House and Senate, if county residents would have to vote on the lodging tax before it is implemented.