Originally created 04/02/97

Augusta hotel tax may increase



City officials may increase the local hotel tax to 6 percent to help pay for the projects that may eventually transform the downtown area.

The issue came up during a finance subcommittee meeting Tuesday, where officials heard requests for a share of the tax money from such groups as the Augusta-Richmond County Civic Center, the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame and Fort Discovery.

The groups were vying for a share of the more than $3 million that last year went to the Convention and Visitors Bureau and the coliseum authority. The current hotel tax is 5 percent.

"We heard a lot of `We don't have the money,' and `Don't look at our budget' and `We need funds,"' said commissioner Jerry Brigham.

But a decision on who should get the money was postponed until the committee meets again. That meeting has not yet been scheduled.

Among the options are raising the hotel tax or decreasing the amount of money that goes to the CVB and coliseum authority, said city administrator Randy Oliver.

Both the coliseum authority and the CVB received more of the hotel and alcohol tax revenues than the city was legally required to give: The coliseum authority received an extra $292,336 and the CVB an extra $127,233.

Officials from both facilities asked that their funds not be cut, and CVB executive director Barry White asked that any additional revenue received by raising the tax should go to the CVB to help it promote all of the planned downtown attractions.

Fort Discovery officials asked for $500,000 over five years. A different finance subcommittee recommended that the center receive that amount from the penny tax.

Mr. Oliver said the commission will consider that request in the coming weeks and pointed out that the center would not receive money from both the penny tax and hotel tax. "They are mutually exclusive," he said. "If they get one request they won't get the other."