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Natchez board seeking hotel tax increase
from Staff Reports - NEWS
February 22, 2018 -

By John Mott Coffey

NATCHEZ, Miss. -- The Board of Aldermen is asking the state Legislature to let Natchez increase taxes on hotel guests.

Aldermen on Wednesday agreed to get a bill filed for this before the Legislature’s March 16 deadline for local measures being introduced.

The Legislature will allow at most an additional 1.5 percent tax that would have to be approved by Natchez voters before being imposed, said city attorney Bob Latham. It would generate more revenues for tourism, recreational or economic development purposes.

The extra lodging tax would be on top of the current levy: a 3 percent sales tax on motels, hotels and bed-and-breakfast inns plus a $2-a-day “heads-on-beds” tax on the guests.

Mayor Darryl Grennell originally wanted the new hotel tax to generate additional revenues to enhance a variety of city services and infrastructure, such as law enforcement and sidewalks, that would benefit Natchez residents as well as visitors. However, the Legislature doesn’t allow local sales taxes for such purposes, Latham said.

Aldermen approved the tax-increase proposal Wednesday with assurances a bill will not tamper with the city’s existing tourism structure managed by the Natchez Convention Promotion Commission, which determines how tourism taxes are spent.

An additional 1.5 percent hotel tax would generate about $256,000 a year, Latham said. While the revenues couldn’t be specifically earmarked for the Natchez Police Department or city infrastructure as Grennell wanted, it could indirectly free up funds to be shifted for those uses, he said.

Grennell has stressed that Natchez taxpayers would not bear the burden of the higher hotel tax.

In addition to the current hotel tax, the city also imposes a 1.5 percent tax on restaurants and bars to generate funds to promote tourism and pay off debts from building the convention center. The taxes in total generated about $1.7 million in fiscal 2017, according to the state Department of Revenue.

The Board of Aldermen on Wednesday also agreed to move forward on refinancing bond debts owed for building the Natchez Convention Center. The board was told it can borrow money at a cheaper rate and save a total of about $200,000. The convention center opened in 2002 with a construction cost of about $10 million.

As the board continues to repay what it borrowed for its construction, the 16-year-old building needs various repairs and upgrades. Grennell said he’ll get a list of the convention center’s structural needs and figure the costs for possibly borrowing more money.

There has been a push in recent years to expand the center so it can attract more conventions, but the board has declined to move that forward. | © 2014 | All Rights Reserved
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