ALBANY Albany, Ga. — Guests who stay in Albany motels and hotels will pay a little more to spend the night here soon if the Albany City Commission formally OKs a 1 percent tax increase it tentatively approved at its work session Tuesday morning.
The state Legislature voted during the 2012 session to allow governments to increase hotel/motel taxes by 1 percent if the additional revenue generated is used for “tourism product development.” The City Commission voted to increase the tax to 8 percent, a move that would generate an estimated $200,000 a year in additional income, but it could not decide where the additional funds should be spent.
Assistant City Manager Wes Smith suggested in presenting the agenda item to commissioners that the additional tax money collected could be used to pay on the $1.4 million in annual expenses needed to operate the Albany Civic Center, but Ward IV Commissioner Roger Marietta said the money might be better utilized to help fund the Flint RiverQuarium and the Civil Rights Institute.
“Some people have suggested earmarking 60 percent of the tax money for the RiverQuarium and 40 percent for the Civil Rights Institute,” Marietta said. “I feel this was the intent of the General Assembly, to fund tourist destinations.”
Ward V Commissioner and Mayor Pro Tem Bob Langstaff, who ran the meeting in the absence of Mayor Dorothy Hubbard, opposed Marietta’s suggestion.
“We have a $1.2 million to $1.4 million expense at the Civic Center that’s not going away,” Langstaff said. “We had to borrow how much to balance our budget this year?”
Informed by City Manager James Taylor that the figure was $5 million, Langstaff continued, “(The tax money) would be $200,000 in the right direction of cutting that deficit, of not having to take more money from the general fund. I was excited about the opportunity as it was presented (by Smith), but I’m not so excited about these other (proposed) uses.”
Told by City Attorney Nathan Davis that the tax increase would have to meet the approval of the commission and the General Assembly, Ward VI Commissioner Tommie Postell asked if the additional funding had to be earmarked before it was sent to the General Assembly. Taylor said, “Your hands are not tied (to specific usage),” but he noted that the commission would need to make a decision soon.
The board tentatively approved the tax increase but asked staff to check with the local legislative delegation to determine if specific use of the new tax money generated was needed for the General Assembly to give its approval.
Officials with the Albany Convention and Visitors Bureau said the city typically collects around $1.45 million a year in hotel/motel taxes at a 7 percent tax rate. That money is equally divided between the city and the CVB.