Albany officials plan to increase hotel tax revenue - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Albany officials plan to increase hotel tax revenue

ALBANY, GA (WALB) -

Albany city officials are looking for ways to save money especially after pulling nearly $5,000,000 from reserves last year to balance the budget.

But could that result in layoffs or tax increases.

City leaders say they're doing everything possible to avoid that and Tuesday that voted to move forward with a plan to increase revenue by raising the hotel tax.

Hotels in Albany stay busy in fact many times rooms they are totally booked. But a new state law allows cities to raise the hotel motel tax from 7 to 8 percent.

"It's about 60 dollars a night to stay in a hotel in Albany this would be 60 cents a night tacked on to visitors," said Wes Smith, Assistant City Manager.

Today commissioners discussed the tax increase, and what it would do for Albany. The increase would generate an additional $200,000 annually.

"We know we've been spending more than taking in and that's got to stop," said Smith.

At seven percent the tax generates $1,450,000 every year.

"Half of the amount goes to the convention and visitors bureau and the other half goes into the general fund to offset civic center expenses," said Smith

But with the increase, all the additional money would go towards the General Fund to offset Civic Center costs. The money that goes towards the convention and visitors bureau would stay the same.

The new law gives the city the option of using the additional revenue to support the Flint Riverquarium or museums, but staff members are recommending that extra money goes into the general fund.

"This year we took out of other funds reserves somewhere in the range of $4,000,000 to $5,000,000 to shore up the budget and we don't want to do that again," said Smith.

Assistant City manager Wes Smith recommends looking at the whole picture.

"Do you want to put money in an aquarium or museum when in order to do that you will have to lay people off and a city needs its employee and we don't want people scared they are going to lose their job," said Smith.

Staffers say the money could be used to offset the cost of running the civic center.

"No it doesn't get to five million but it will be a nice piece," said Smith.

The proposal will go before the commission at their next meeting before going to the General Assembly next year for their okay.

Soon they hope to present the commission with a complete plan that lists all the options to help shore up the city's finances.

Copyright 2012 WALB.  All rights reserved.

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