Commissioners hoping to see resolution pass

Published 3:00 am Thursday, February 26, 2015

Pike County commissioners are hoping the second time will be the charm in an effort to increase the county’s lodging tax and in turn generate additional revenue for the county.

Commissioners on Monday voted to seek passage of a local-private bill increasing the lodging tax from 8 to 12 percent. With 3 percent allocated to the county’s general fund and 1 percent allocated to the City of Brundidge. Revenues from the current 8 percent tax are split equally between the City of Troy and the state.

Harry Sanders, county administrator, said an increase in the lodging tax would give the county the ability to generate additional revenue without directly taxing residents.

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“One of the things about lodging tax is that it wouldn’t impact citizens of the county directly unless they stay in a hotel (or motel),” Sanders said. “You don’t usually see anyone from here go to a hotel in Pike County. The thinking was that this would be a way to make ends meet without directly taxing our constituents.”

Sanders did say there was a small possibility that campgrounds located in Pike County may be affected by the resolution as well.

“There may be some smaller ones and with some of these campgrounds, it is possible that they would be included,” Sanders said.

The tax increase is not proposed lightly by commissioners who have been seeking a more efficient way to generate funds for the county, Sanders said.

“Commissioner Homer Wright and other commissioners … have been looking for quite some item now for a way to operate more efficiently and cut costs for the county,” Sanders said. “There is a limit of where the county is able to cut costs. We have to work within limitations because of the amount of services the county provides.”

As for the 3 percent of revenue the county would see, Sanders said the money would go into the county’s general fund where it could be used for any number of projects.

“The most immediate need right now is related to roads,” Sanders said. “I believe that is where the discussions on funds are being steered, but with it in the general fund it can be used for anything with county government.”

Sanders said any money kept in the county’s general fund must receive authorization from the county commission before being spent.

“The money for the general fund can’t be spent without the approval for the county commission, that’s the most important part of those general funds,” Sanders said. “It’s the County Commission’s responsibility. All transactions the county does are subject to be audited by the county and the Alabama Department of Public Examiners, and they do that annually.”

Sanders said the last time the county sought to increase the lodging tax, commissioners had debated whether or not to include other government entities as beneficiaries of the revenues. Now was

“There won’t be a lot of new revenue opportunities,” Sanders said. “We understand that, but with the limited revenue that everyone has this is an opportunity to share that revenue with another part of the government. There are three major parts to the government in Pike County — the County Commission, Troy City Council and Brundidge City Council, and Brundidge is just as important (as other agencies).”

Sanders said the last time a resolution of this nature was proposed, no action was taken on it. Because the county has no authority to levy its own taxes, any increase in the lodging tax would have to come by a local-private act passed by the Legislature. Sanders said commissioners have asked state Rep. Alan Boothe, R-Troy, and Sen. Jimmy Holley, R-Elba, to consider introducing the bill in the upcoming legislative session.

“It just died last time,” Sanders said. “We don’t have the authority to put on a lodging tax. That would be an authority given to the county by the legislation. We are just asking for the action. They can honor the request, or they cannot. They didn’t (honor the request) before.”

Sanders said it is important to understand that the legislation would not directly tax Pike County residents.

“The key point for the commission is that it doesn’t tax its constituents,” Sanders said. “It doesn’t tax the people of Pike County unless there is an event that causes residents to stay in a hotel here.”

District 4 Commissioner Ray Goodson said the ultimate goal for the resolution for him was to be able to see the state, city and county governments work together for the betterment for the residents of Pike County.

“We just want to see the government work together,” Goodson said.