Hoteliers oppose extra city fee

A dozen Richmond County hoteliers upset over a $1 per room per night fee came to the Augusta Commission armed with a solution, not just a complaint.

Marty Matfess, who manages Doubletree Hotel Augusta and Hilton Garden Inn, asked the commission's finance committee Monday to rescind the 2-month-old tax and come up with another way to raise the money that will fund an exhibition center and fuel some neighborhood rehabilitation.

The hotel operators are upset that the fee presents another set of taxes that they must manage along with sales tax and occupancy tax.

"This is a third set of rules," Mr. Matfess told committee members. "The accounting creates a new process that includes cost to us. The $1 tax for the city actually costs us more than $1 for accounting."

They also argue that the $1 per room is a higher tax on those relying on budget hotels.

"For transient workers who are staying in economy hotels for a few months, this represents a $30 increase in their rent," Mr. Matfess said.

Haresh Vyas, the owner of Motel One on Gordon Highway, said the hotel owners are proposing an increase to the occupancy tax instead.

"We're already paying a tax, just raise it 1 percent more, 6 percent go to 7 percent," Mr. Vyas said.

Committee members were open to the prospect of sitting down with the hotel owners and members of the administration to discuss the matter.

The $1 fee was enacted to raise more than $1 million annually to pay for a proposed trade, exhibition and event center, along with transportation and revitalization efforts. The first $350,000 of the fee revenue will go toward operations and maintenance of the TEE Center on Reynolds Street. The next $750,000 will be used for revitalization of the Bethlehem and Laney-Walker heritage areas.

Hotels began collecting the new tax in March.

Reach Tim Rausch at (706) 823-3352 or timothy.rausch@augustachronicle.com.

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