Wilson County Commissioners took a first step toward changing the county’s hotel/motel tax rate at their Monday meeting. But the vote did not happen without some discussion.
“This really isn’t just about a tax rate,” said Commissioner Frank Bush. “It’s the opportunity to move forward with a $9 million project.”
Bush referenced the recently completed feasibility study done on a proposed Expo Center for the county, which part of the hotel/motel tax funds would be used to operate.
“This study shows a significant operational loss forever. Sometimes in discussion there is talk of the rodeo coming here in 2016, but it is not contingent on this center coming here. We got it without this structure; we don’t need this structure. It makes no financial sense.”
Commissioner Jeff Joines, a strong advocate of the Expo Center said, “Sometimes stuff comes up in front of you that’s a big decision. When they do, you’ve got to do what’s best for Wilson County. This is a state-of-the-art facility for trade shows and conventions.”
Mayor Randall Hutto explained that the resolution, if passed, would allow commissioners to raise the tax from 5 percent to 8 percent. He added that he had spoken with some hotel owners and “they would like for us to consider a 1-percent increase.”
Following the discussion, commissioners voted 17 to 6, with Commissioners Fred Weston and Clint Thomas absent, in favor of sending the private act to Nashville. A resolution asking for a private act to allow for a ticket surcharge to help fund the Expo Center also passed by an 18 to 5 margin.
The commission also took action regarding the domestic animal tax vote that had been deferred at the November meeting.
A resolution ceasing the collection of the domestic animal tax passed 13 to 10. The second resolution, which would levy a domestic animal fee when pet owners get their animals vaccinated, was also debated.
“The only people paying this tax are responsible pet owners that are paying for their pets’ rabies shots,” said Mike Justice.
Commissioner Wendell Marlowe put in “This is a tax that the people voted on themselves for the purpose of animal control and rabies control. If y’all want to take advantage of money the people voted in, then so be it.”
After much discussion, the motion failed by a 7 to 16 vote.
The Commission will hold its next meeting Jan. 27.