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Gainesville may increase tax on hotel stays
1230Hotel sj
Kristy Ingram reads a magazine Monday afternoon in the lobby of the Hilton Garden Inn in Gainesville. Gainesville officials have plans to increase the hotel-motel tax, and could raise it up to 8 percent from the current 6 percent.

Gainesville officials are considering a hike in the hotel-motel tax that could tack on as much as an 8 percent tax to room rates for hotel guests in the city.

The tax hike will be on the agenda for the City Council’s action on Jan. 6, but it is still unclear whether council members will vote on a 7 or an 8 percent tax.

The proposed changes, which will come before the council in its first meeting of 2009, follow suit with recent changes in state law. These changes allow municipalities to charge higher taxes on hotel and motel accommodations and tax hotel guests for up to 30 consecutive days of their stays in local hotels.

Guests in Gainesville’s hotels currently pay a 6 percent tax on top of their room rates.

The fees are meant to help the city promote local tourism and conventions. In the past, revenues from the tax were used to renovate the Georgia Mountains Center.

Previous laws limited the tax to 6 percent and only allowed cities to tax hotel guests for the first 10 consecutive days of their hotel stays.

A 7 percent tax could help the city pay off loans that funded renovations to the Georgia Mountains Center, said Gainesville’s Chief Financial Officer Melody Marlowe.

An 8 percent tax could help the city fund projects geared toward “tourism product development.”

Interim City Manager Kip Padgett said those projects could include park expansions and even new park facilities.

Initially, the item will come before the council as a proposed 1 percent increase, but city officials have discussed the possibility of raising the tax to 8 percent — the highest levy allowed under a recently changed state law.

Gainesville’s Mayor Myrtle Figueras said at a Dec. 18 work session that she wants to hear from local hotel owners before she makes her decision. Councilman George Wangemann also said he is interested in making sure the change would allow local hotels to offer competitive rates.

“I would be in favor of 8 percent, but I want to know what the hoteliers think,” Figueras said. “I would be in favor of 7 percent no matter what nobody thinks.”