The Madison Mayor and City Council is ready to revisit a controversial issue that divided the council in half earlier this year while drawing the ire of local hoteliers—raising the Hotel/Motel Tax by two percent.
In January 2018, the council narrowly passed an increase to the Hotel/Motel Tax from 5 percent to 7 percent in a 3-to-2 vote, with Madison Mayor Fred Perriman breaking the tie. But Morgan County’s delegation, Representative Dave Belton and State Senator Burt Jones, refused to present the passed tax increase to the state legislature for approval due to the city council’s vote not being unanimous. The deadline passed despite protests from the Madison Mayor and City Council as a whole, and the Hotel/Motel Tax remained flat at 5 percent.
Now, Councilwoman Chris Hodges wants the city council to look into raising the Hotel/Motel Tax again by December 2018, in order to secure more funding the Madison-Morgan Convention and Visitors Bureau (CVB) to promote tourism in Madison.
“The issue is ripe for another conversation,” said Hodges at Thursday’s city council work session. “The CVB has done an incredible job with the money they have, but what could they do with just a little more money? We don’t need to be lackadaisical on this. We need to be aggressive and not let other cities steal our thunder.”
Perriman was open to the idea. “We want to put Madison on the map,” said Perriman. “We need to take another look at this.”
Councilman Rick Blanton had some reservations, and asked to see data on how CVB marketing actually translated into “head in beds”—visitors staying in Madison lodging facilities.
“I just want to see how this money is used,” said Blanton.
According to The City of Madison, “The Madison-Morgan County Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB), a nonprofit corporation partially funded through Madison’s hotel/motel tax, guides the very successful community tourism effort. The CVB employs a full-time director. In addition to operating the Madison Welcome Center, the CVB coordinates all regional marketing initiatives and concentrates upon promoting Madison and Morgan County to both national and international visitors. Tourism has become Madison’s leading economic engine and is instrumental to local economic vitality and community development.”
Councilwoman Hodges is hoping her fellow councilmembers will vote unanimously, or near unanimously, on raising the Hotel/Motel Tax to prevent another delay by Morgan County’s Delegation. Belton suggested waiting a year before trying again after announcing he would not present the tax increase to the legislature in January.
“The state legislature does not take up these issues without a unanimous, or near unanimous vote,” said Belton in January. “It is my understanding that the people involved who created the CVB (Convention and Visitors Bureau) wanted to table this for a year to look at it. With a 3-to-2 vote, that’s not even near unanimous…You can hold another vote and when we have a broader consensus we can move forward on this.” Hodges is hoping to accomplish just that. In coming meetings, representatives from the CVB will present updated data to the council on how increase funding will allow the organization to expand their advertising and promotional efforts to bring in more people to Madison.
“As I understand, the CVB has been working with our hoteliers to address their concerns, too,” said Hodges.
In January, Mike Conrads objected to the tax increase on behalf of the Madison-Morgan Lodging Association (MMLA), which is made up of local hoteliers, who worried the increase Hotel/Motel Tax would eliminate Madison’s competitive edge, arguing the lower rate allows hotels to charge slightly cheaper rooms than surrounding communities.