ALBANY, Ga. —The Georgia Department of Community Affairs, the government arm that oversees administration of hotel/motel tax revenues, says that the Albany Convention and Visitors Bureau can use tax proceeds to fund part of an executive’s salary, but only if the position meets certain conditions.
Earlier this week, City Attorney Nathan Davis questioned $86,000 in expenses paid by the CVB toward the salaries of a marketing executive, an accountant and a senior executive, all of whom also work for the Albany Area Chamber of Commerce.
Chamber President Chris Hardy, who gets 40 percent of his pay from hotel/motel tax proceeds, defended the practice, saying that those chamber officials who receive salary from the tax revenue dedicate a certain amount of their time towards furthering the mission of the CVB which is promoting and growing tourism, which would make their pay allowable under Georgia law.
On Thursday, DCA Director of External Affairs, Saralynn Stafford, said that both the city and the chamber are partly right in their assessment of the law and how the funds can be dispersed and partly wrong.
“If the chamber president’s job includes functions that promote tourism, like if he’s attending hospitality meetings or working with the CVB on a function that may help recruit a convention, then that would be covered,” Stafford said. “But just general oversight of a CVB would not be an acceptable use of the tax proceeds.”
Stafford said that using tax proceeds to pay for accounting and marketing services from the chamber would also be an allowable expense in the view of the DCA.
“What those people are doing is directly related to the operation of the CVB and promoting tourism, whether it’s managing their books or designing a marketing campaign,” she said.
But, she also cautioned the chamber to keep detailed records that would reflect when chamber personnel are working on CVB activities, rather than chamber time.
“It’s kind of tedious, but there needs to be timesheets filled out that say ‘at 9 a.m. I met with the hospitality board,’ ‘at noon I had lunch with a hotel manager,’ things like that,” Stafford said.
Currently, the city has an agreement with the CVB and the chamber to split the revenues collected from the hotel/motel tax. Under that agreement, 50 percent, or roughly $750,000 each year, goes to the CVB to promote tourism, conventions and trade shows, while the other goes into the general coffers of the city.