Increase in lodging fee OK’dPublished 9:50pm Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Staying overnight in Selma will now come with an extra fee, but with that fee will come the hope of the YMCA of Selma staying afloat and remaining a presence in the community.
The Selma City Council Tuesday unanimously approved the first in a two-step process to help save and stabilize the YMCA of Selma using revenue generated from a citywide occupancy fee on hotels.
The ordinance increases the city’s lodging fee by $2 per room, per night on all hotels located within the city limits and the police jurisdiction. The additional fee is effective beginning Feb. 1.
There was no discussion prior to the vote, as the council’s administrative committee held a work session on the subject last week. During the committee meeting, hotel operators came to air their grievances and disapproval with the proposed, and now approved, ordinance.
“This ordinance establishes an occupancy [fee] but it just levies that [fee,]” Selma city attorney Jimmy Nunn said. “It does not distribute where the [fee] goes. [The fee] will be collected and put into a separate account until the city council determines what avenue they want to take as it relates to the lodging [fee.]”
The council will next have to approve a contract to allow the revenue generated from the new occupancy fee to be allocated to the YMCA of Selma, and possibly 50 cents of the $2 per room will go towards the revitalization of the Brown YMCA, which is now closed.
“Although [funds from the fee] have been talked about going to the YMCA, this has nothing to do with the YMCA,” Nunn said about the ordinance. “The lodging [fee] if it passes, we will have to come back and do a separate contract in which the city council will have to vote. If you want some of this tax to go to the YMCA and Brown YMCA, all of that will have to be outlined in a separate contract.”
Nunn said for now, and until that contract is voted on as to where the revenue will go, the money will be placed in its own separate account within the city’s general fund.
Following the vote, there was a discrepancy as to how long this ordinance would last. Nunn told council members the ordinance would “go on for eternity,” while the contract that is created later, could detail how long the money would go towards the YMCA of Selma.
“As it relates to the YMCA, when we met with the hotel owners, we stated that in the contract we could specify that the contract be year by year,” Nunn said. “Then if the YMCA comes to a point where they are stable, we could terminate that contract with the YMCA.”
This would mean, after the time for the contract is expired, the contract could be removed or the money could be designated for another area in city budget.
Nunn suggested the current occupancy tax, a 6 percent tax, allocates money to the economic development and tourism offices, so once the contract expires with the YMCA of Selma, that revenue from the fee could just be designated to those departments as well.